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T H E A U S T I N C H R O N I C L E
JULY 25, 2014
a u s t
i n c h r o n
i c
l e
. c om
you talk about lawmakers, rate them, and
criticize the speaker of the house, then the
TEC will be used against you.”
Actually, the commission found: If it
walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck,
then it better file the requisite waterfowl
paperwork. As the commissioners ruled,
it’s not that Sullivan simply spoke (or
“reported”) his mind: It was that, between
2010 and 2011, he was paid nearly
$261,000 by Empower Texans to regularly
meet with and contact lawmakers “to influ-
ence legislation,” and he did so “without
properly registering as a paid lobbyist.”
Sullivan has promised to appeal the ruling. However, this
may not be the end of his legal woes, since his desperate
prognostications about the demise of free speech may back-
fire. As Harvey Kronberg of legislative insider
Quorum Report
noted, citing the First Amendment (free speech) as reason
not to comply with a commission subpoena, rather than the
Fifth (freedom from self-incrimination), could leave Sullivan
open to criminal prosecution.
– Richard Whittaker
NEWS
Austin Responds to the Refugees
As the
Central American refugee
crisis
unfolds, an Austin movement to offer aid is
playing out quietly, behind the scenes. In
stark contrast to the virulent response of
some lawmakers and communities, where
the frightened migrants – including approxi-
mately 57,000 unaccompanied children ven-
turing primarily from
El Salvador
,
Guatemala
, and
Honduras
– have been met
with animosity, there has been a ground-
swell of support from the Austin community.
Employees at
LatinWorks
– a Downtown
Hispanic advertising agency – leapt into
action. The 137 employees have collected
toiletries, first aid kits, shoes, clothes, color-
ing books and toys. As of earlier this week,
four trips had been made to the Greyhound
bus station in Laredo, where refugees are
dropped off after being released from deten-
tion centers to the custody of relatives while
they await deportation hearings.
Lorena Portillo
, a LatinWorks translator
who first proposed the donations, drove the
three hours to Laredo, her Nissan Sentra
loaded with supplies. “They arrive with noth-
ing,” Portillo says. “We have survival kits for
them – toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, sham-
poo, towels. They’re shy at first, but once
they know we’re there to help they’ll say
something like ‘We really need socks,’ or
‘We’ve been wearing the same shoes for
weeks.’ A bar of soap is like gold to them.”
By now, Portillo knows the drill: Arriving
at the bus station early on a Saturday morn-
ing, she took the supplies to a storage area
set aside for the refugees. Then she waited.
Soon enough, a busload of some 60 refugees
–women and children – pulled in. Immigrant
men are taken elsewhere, probably to
undergo greater scrutiny, she surmised.
In East Austin, community activist
Angelica Noyola
helped organize a supply
drive from among the local artistic commu-
nity, reacting to a call for action raised by
Houston-based rapper
Chingo Bling
. In her
outreach for supplies – undergarments,
blankets, socks, etc. – she shifted the issue
from “immigration” to repercussions if the
refugees were to stay in their violence-rid-
den homelands. “You have to take the
immigrant label away, because that’s how
you criminalize them,” she says. “They face
violence, torture, and rape if they stay.
People hate the word ‘rape,’ but you have to
put it out there for people to understand.”
In Central Austin, parishioners at
Trinity
United Methodist Church
have also opened
their hearts by means of a second, dedicat-
ed collection: On a recent Sunday, they
contributed about $800. Pastor
Sid Hall
ensures all donations are disbursed through
the
United Methodist Committee on
Relief
, guaranteeing 100% of the proceeds
are applied charitably, rather than a per-
centage going to administrative costs. Hall
goes beyond calling for donations, urging
his roughly 400 parishioners to take active
roles in advocating for
immigration reform
.
“I’m a liberal activist on just about every
cause, including this,” Hall says proudly.
“What I try to do is have my congregation
certainly involved in charity, the food pan-
try, and stuff like that, but I want them to
work politically for change. I want them
asking the deeper questions.”
Dr.
Adam Rosenbloom
, a pediatrician at
Dell Children’s Medical Center
, drove with
his family to McAllen during the Fourth of
July weekend to provide medical care. Upon
his return, he described a scene quite differ-
ent from the hysterical scenarios appearing
in much of the U.S. media, of organizational
chaos and rampant diseases. “Most of what
I saw were common complaints you’d see
from people – coughs, colds, and sometimes
stomach bugs,” Rosenbloom said. “A lot of
people had been traveling for two to four
weeks in a bus … so I saw kids who were
hungry and a little dehydrated. There were
some cases of scabies that I see in a lot of
clinics in Austin, too. Nothing more than
what is running rampant in any given pre-
school in this country.”
Contrast these eyewitness reports to head-
line political and media reactions, driven by
bigotry or pandering rather than knowledge.
“Our schools cannot handle this influx, we
don’t even know what all diseases they
have,” proclaimed U.S. Rep.
Louie Gohmert
,
R-Texas. Fox
News commentator
Cal
Thomas
demanded proof of vaccinations
and claimed the refugees carry “mumps,
measles, rubella, polio, tetanus, and diph-
theria.” Rep.
Phil Gingrey
, R-Georgia – a
retired physician – raised the fearmongering
ante, predicting “illegal migrants carrying
deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue
fever, Ebola virus, and tuberculosis.” Yet
UNICEF
estimates that 93% of children in El
Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are vac-
cinated against measles – better than the
92% rate among kids in the U.S.
The
Centers for Disease Control
also con-
tradicted the feverish narratives of the rabid
anti-immigrant crowd. In an email exchange,
CDC spokesman Llelwyn Grant described
measured steps in reaction to the influx of
refugees. “CDC is providing consultation to
federal partners leading the response to the
increase in unaccompanied children entering
the United States,” Grant writes. “CDC’s sup-
port includes consultation on medical screen-
ing and providing disease surveillance screen-
ing tools, which is being directed by the
Administration for Children and Families.”
And unsolicited, the CDC spokesman
offered this: “We can state that CDC does
not believe the children arriving at U.S. bor-
ders pose a public health risk to the general
public or U.S. population.” –
Tony Cantú
For information on how to assist the refugee aid effort, con-
tact the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition at 512/476-2472,
or go to
www.austinirc.org
. Donations can be made to St. James’
Episcopal Church, 1941 Webberville Rd.; Jewish Community
Center, 7300 Hart; Catholic Charities of Central Texas,
1625 Rutherford.
Ethics Commission: ‘Mucus’ Quacks Like a Lobbyist
This just in from the “blindingly obvious” files:
Michael
Quinn Sullivan
, president of right-wing lobby group
Empower
Texans
, is a lobbyist. And now he has a $10,000 fine, and a
reminder to file his lobbyist paperwork, to prove it.
In a July 21 ruling, the
Texas Ethics Commission
found
that Sullivan (aka “MQS” or “Mucus” to both friends and ene-
mies) failed to file the required paperwork to operate as a leg-
islative lobbyist. He had filed in 2005-09, but stopped doing
so in 2010-11. The commission ruled that he had continued
doing exactly the same lobbying. They ordered that he pay a
$10,000 fine (the maximum $5,000 on two complaints), and
slammed both him and Empower Texans for failing to hand
over subpoenaed emails relating to his work as a lobbyist –
only forgoing further action to settle the main offenses.
Sullivan began as a vice president at the conservative
think tank
Texas Public Policy Foundation
before becoming
the figure behind the conjoined twins of right-wing lobbying in
Texas: Empower Texans and
Texans for Fiscal
Responsibility
. More recently, he recast himself as a “jour-
nalist” of sorts, joining
Breitbart Texas
. He also got
the ear of the
Wall Street Journal
’s editorial board
(explaining the
WSJ
’s recent and uncharacteristic fixa-
tion on the tenure of UT President Bill Powers.)
Sullivan’s attorney and Empower Texans legal coun-
sel
Joe Nixon
denounced the ruling as “outra-
geous,” especially because the commission “failed
to inquire about the organization’s document reten-
tion policy.” Sullivan himself put on his most ruffled
feathers. Throughout the legal process, he has used
the Empower Texans mailing list to bleat plaintively that the
commission was simply mounting a politically motivated ven-
detta against him and the First Amendment. In November
2013, he went so far as to compare the commission to
Nazis (see “Conservative Kingmaker Compares TEC to Third
Reich,” Nov. 15, 2013.)
When his fine was ordered Monday, Sullivan issued a state-
ment fuming about “discredited witnesses and hearsay,” and
trashed the decision. “The essence of their ruling is this: If
j a n a b i r C h u m
Michael Quinn Sullivan
Lauren Peña of LatinWorks sorts through donated items.