Author Archives: Claire Allbright

A “glitch” on U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s website asked for visitors’ Social Security numbers

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn joins fellow Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Tribune CEO Evan Smith for the closing day of The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 24, 2017.

An error on U.S. Sen. John Cornyn‘s website last night required constituents to submit their Social Security number when filling out the comments box on the website.

Normally, Cornyn’s website only requires people to submit their Social Security numbers when they are requesting help with a federal agency. The error last night required it, along with their name, address and contact information, even when leaving the Texas Republican a comment.

A spokesperson for Cornyn said the required field was a “glitch.”

“It was an inadvertent glitch and our website vendor has fixed it,” Drew Brandewie wrote in an email.

As of Tuesday morning, the field has been removed from Cornyn’s website on the “Discuss an issue” page but remains if constituents are seeking help with an agency.

Most other members of the Texas delegation in Congress have similar forms to submit comments on their webpages but do not require a Social Security number for those solely trying to contact the member’s office. However, many use a specialized privacy form that requires a Social Security number for those requesting help with a federal agency.

Posted in Latest, National, State | Comments Off on A “glitch” on U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s website asked for visitors’ Social Security numbers

Rick Perry ties fossil fuel use to sexual assault prevention

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry testifies at a Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing in Washington, D.C. on Oct 12, 2017.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said Thursday fossil fuels can help prevent sexual assault because the “lights are on.”

His comments came during an event hosted by NBC News and Axios in Washington, D.C., where Perry was to lay out the administration’s upcoming energy policy priorities.

The former Texas governor brought up sexual assault while describing a recent trip to Africa, where he was told “people are dying” because they lack access to energy, according to a transcription by The Hill newspaper.

“It’s going to take fossil fuels to push power out into those villages in Africa, where a young girl told me to my face, ‘one of the reasons that electricity is so important to me is not only because I’m not going to have to try to read by the light of a fire and have those fumes literally killing people.’”

“But also from the standpoint of sexual assault, when the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts,” Perry continued.   

Perry has been pushing the expansion of fossil fuels since he assumed the position as energy secretary.

The Sierra Club, an environmental group that generally supports Democratic candidates, called for Perry’s resignation following the interview.

“It was already clear that Rick Perry is unfit to lead the Department of Energy, but to suggest that fossil fuel development will decrease sexual assault is not only blatantly untrue, it is an inexcusable attempt to minimize a serious and pervasive issue,” the Sierra Club said in a statement.

Posted in Latest, National, State | Comments Off on Rick Perry ties fossil fuel use to sexual assault prevention

A Russian Facebook page organized a protest in Texas. A different Russian page launched the counter-protest.

Screenshots released by federal lawmakers of Russian-linked Facebook pages promoting anti-Muslim and pro-Muslim rallies on the same day in 2016 in Houston.

Federal lawmakers on Wednesday released samples of 3,000 Facebook ads purchased by Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign. The ads conveyed the wide range of influence Russian-linked groups tried to enact on Americans – but one set of ads in particular hit close to home.

Last year, two Russian Facebook pages organized dueling rallies in front of the Islamic Da’wah Center of Houston, according to information released by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.

Heart of Texas, a Russian-controlled Facebook group that promoted Texas secession, leaned into an image of the state as a land of guns and barbecue and amassed hundreds of thousands of followers. One of their ads on Facebook announced a noon rally on May 21, 2016 to “Stop Islamification of Texas.”

A separate Russian-sponsored group, United Muslims of America, advertised a “Save Islamic Knowledge” rally for the same place and time.

On that day, protesters organized by the two groups showed up on Travis Street in downtown Houston, a scene that appeared on its face to be a protest and a counterprotest. Interactions between the two groups eventually escalated into confrontation and verbal attacks.

Burr, the committee’s chairman, unveiled the ads at a hearing Wednesday morning and said Russians managed to pit Texans against each other for the bargain price of $200.

“You commented yesterday that your company’s goal is bringing people together. In this case, people were brought together to foment conflict, and Facebook enabled that event to happen,” Burr said to Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch.

“I would say that Facebook has failed their goal,” Burr added. “From a computer in St. Petersburg, Russia, these operators can create and promote events anywhere in the United States in attempt to tear apart our society.”

Stretch told the Senate Intelligence Committee that ads such as these were most likely directed at different audiences.

Both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate Intelligence committees met with representatives from Google, Facebook and Twitter at the Capitol Wednesday.

In a press conference following the House hearing, the top Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff of California, said lawmakers hope to make all of the Russian-bought Facebook ads available to the public in the next few weeks.

“People really need to see just how cynical this campaign really was and how this operation directed by a former KGB operative who is now the president of Russia was designed to tap into these really provocative and divisive issues here in the United States,” Schiff said.

Going forward, Schiff said Congress will consider new regulations of political advertisements. He said the question is how they will adapt these oversight measures to social media platforms.

U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, is currently leading the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into election meddling by Russia.

Posted in Latest, Local, National, State | Comments Off on A Russian Facebook page organized a protest in Texas. A different Russian page launched the counter-protest.

U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders face off in tax code debate

U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, defended the recently unveiled GOP plan to overhaul the tax code in a Wednesday night debate against U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

“This debate is very very simple, Bernie and the Democrats want every one of you to pay more taxes,” Cruz said during the program, which was hosted by CNN. “And the Republicans want to lower the taxes for each and every person watching this debate.”

The Republican tax framework would reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three at rates of 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent, increase the Child Tax Credit and eliminate most itemized deductions as well as the estate tax.

Sanders argued the plan would cut taxes by $1.9 trillion dollars for the wealthiest 1 percent, increase the national debt and cut welfare programs.

“I do not believe that America is about giving tax breaks to the very, very wealthy and cutting life-and-death programs for the working class,” Sanders said.

Cruz, a polished debater who looked comfortable behind the podium, delivered a practiced message that ultimately promoted every aspect of the GOP’s plan.

Sanders said while his plan might raise taxes, it would be so that more people have access to affordable health care, child day care services and better education.

“We are talking about taxes today, but … this isn’t just about taxes, it’s about a vision for America,” Sanders said.

Their respective visions often took the attention away from discussion over the merits of rewriting the tax code throughout the evening, with the moderators often having to redirect the focus back to the questions at hand. The two senators, standing only three feet apart, constantly interrupted one another, waved hands in each other’s faces and made snide comments.

At one point, Cruz told Sanders that he should “curb his enthusiasm,” and that Larry David’s impersonation of him is “spectacular.”

After Cruz replied to an audience question saying repealing the estate tax would encourage more people to keep their businesses open, Sanders paid Cruz a compliment: “That’s a good speech, but it has nothing to do with reality.”

The town hall was a rematch of sorts for Cruz and Sanders after a previous CNN debate in February over health care. Since their respective runs for president in 2016, the two have become megaphones for their brand of party politics.

Republican president leading the country, Cruz said his party must act.

“We have got to deliver on our promise to cut taxes for working families, for small business, for farmers, for ranchers,” Cruz said. “I’ll tell you what I believe: that you know better how to spend your hard-earned money than the government does.”

Before Congress can even take up the details of rewriting the tax code, they must pass a budget. That vote may come as soon as the end of this week.

Posted in Latest, National | Comments Off on U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders face off in tax code debate