Saturday, January 19, 2008

HD 46: Hire Dukes, Get A Bill Passed?

By Vince Leibowitz - Capitol Annex - Jan. 19, 2008
Recap of speech by at COPE Convention in Austin Jan 18-20, 2008

Suppose a Legislator gets a contract to work as a “consultant” for a multi-million dollar land developer. The Legislator then passes a bill that increases the overall value of the entire development by providing millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded incentives for one of the land developer’s most high-profile, anchor tenants.
Sound ethical, or even legal?

Well, you’ll never guess who were talking about…again. Yep, increasingly ethically challenged, Republican-funded Craddick Democrat, Dawnna Dukes.

Apparently, when she’s not accepting contributions from GOP Contributors, or defending Tom Craddick, or helping her sister get a toll-road contract the day after she votes for toll roads, or running up $89,000 in illegally reported “campaign” credit card expenses, or missing a crucial vote on the house floor because of a vacation in France, or skipping an important Medicaid Reform Hearing for a conference in La Jolla with a weekend stay-over in Vegas, (to name just a few of her shortcomings) she is using her office to help get personal contracts with multi-million dollar land developers.

I’ve been told off the record by quite a few lobbyists that at the end of meetings about legislative initiatives with their clients Dukes will pop that most uncomfortable of questions…“what’s in it for me?” This is the point in the program where the testicles of the lobbyists shrivel up, the lobbyist turns beat red, and he starts to seek solace in a close corner behind a thick drape. The Southwest Airlines “wanna getaway” ding starts ringing in his head. And he starts to imagine what it will be like to testify in front of a grand jury after Ronnie Earle finds out about the meeting in which he probably just witnessed an act of legislative bribery. Oh, c’mon – there are a dozen of you who will read this post and know exactly what I’m talking about.

Well, folks are talking…

Here’s a fact pattern that would make any 1st year law student with the intent of becoming a District Attorney froth at the mouth. And every bullet is footnoted so that you don’t have to take our word for it, you can see for yourself.

*Dukes’s company, DM Dukes & Associates, gets hired by a company named Catellus Development Group sometime during or before 2006. (1)

*Catellus is the developer who is redeveloping the old Robert Mueller Airport, in Dukes’s East Austin district.(2)

*Dukes is listed on Catellus brochures as a contact. (3)

*Dukes’s company, DM Dukes & Associates is listed on the Robert Meuller web site as a contact for Catellus. (4)

*Dukes attends neighborhood association meetings, not in her capacity as a State Representative, but in her capacity as an agent of Catellus.(5)

*One of the anchor tenants and crown jewels of the new Mueller Development is The Austin Film Society. (6)

*During the legislative session in 2007, Dukes passed HB 1634, a bill that provided a mechanism for $22 million in incentives for the film industry and the Austin Film Society.(7)

*Dukes and one of her Republican pals, Rick Perry, appeared together at a press conference and bill signing ceremony at the Austin Film Studios.(8)

*Dukes issues a press release bragging about her bill that explicitly states that her bill will benefit the Austin Film Studios. “Film Incentive legislation will not only benefit the Austin Film Studios presently located at Robert Mueller in District 46 but also the planned $2.5 billion Villa Muse studio development to be located in District 46.” (9)

*Dukes potentially violates Texas House Rules and the Texas Constitution by never disclosing her personal or business interest with Catellus Development.

*Article 3 Section 22 of the Texas Constitution requires “A member who has a personal or private interest in any measure or bill, proposed, or pending before the Legislature, shall disclose the fact to the House, of which he is a member, and shall not vote thereon.”(10)

*Rule 5 Section 42 of the Texas House Rules sets out this same requirement

We are that the mainstream media has not picked up on this story!
Here you have an elected official working for a multi-million dollar developer as a consultant, who then goes and gets $22 million taxpayer dollars for an incentive program that benefits one of the developers anchor tenants.

How is that legal, moral, ethical, or right?
And I hear this isn’t the only unseemly contract…

Endnotes, links and sources:
According to the document linked below, dated February 15, 2006, Dukes is working on behalf of Catellus Development Group, the same group responsible for the Robert Meuller Development project. On Page 8 of the above link, Dawnna Dukes of DM Dukes & Associates is clearly listed as the MWBE Outreach Consultant for Catellus Development Group. Her address, phone, fax and email are given.

(2) and

EXCERPT – “November 2007, Catellus Development Group officially broke ground on November 14, 2007, on the Seton Family of Hospitals’ new headquarters at Mueller during a ceremony held near the site of Mueller’s future town center.



EXCERPT – “For general inquiries about Catellus’ M/WBE policy and program, please contact: D.M. Dukes and Associates,”

(5) I have this from a personal source who lives in her district and attended one of those meetings.

On Page 3, the Austin Film Society is clearly located within the Meuller Development. On the 8th bullet – left hand side of page 3, the Film Society is clearly mentioned.

(7) In 2007, Dawnna Dukes passed HB 1634.
The bill set up a mechanism for $22 million in incentives for the film industry. The money was appropriated through the Trusteed Programs within the Office of the Governor – A.1.4. Strategy – Film and Music Marketing - $22 million increase relating to HB 1634. This is located on Article I page 52 of the conference committee report for HB 1. It is also mentioned in Rider 20 – Article I page 58 of the conference committee report on HB1.


(9) Dukes campaign continually brags about her legislative achievement in passing HB 1634. EXCERPT “In 2007, Representative Dukes was the prime architect of legislation that will bring Texas into the forefront of the competitive Film Industry. HB 1634 by Dukes created the Texas Film Incentive program which provides an incentive to a project that produces at least 80% of it work and hires at least 70% of its workforce from Texas. Film Incentive legislation will not only benefit the Austin Film Studios presently located at Robert Mueller in District 46 but also the planned $2.5 billion Villa Muse studio development to be located in District 46.”

(10) Texas Constitution

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