Many Texans have now seen Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott’s ad about his herculean effort to re-build his strength following an accident in 1984 that left him permanently wheelchair bound. The ad depicts Abbott in a sweaty t-shirt determinedly pushing his wheelchair-bound body up eight floors in a parking garage to demonstrate how he regained the strength the accident took from him. He promises to use that same gritty determination to govern the State of Texas, if elected.
That last claim is debatable since the ad does not reveal that in 2003 Abbott strenuously fought to have parts of the American with Disabilities Act declared unconstitutional—an act that protects individual with disabilities, like him, from discrimination by big business and corporate interests.
The ad does not reveal that Abbott was paralyzed after a devastating injury he suffered when an oak tree fell on him while jogging with a friend in Houston after a storm in 1984, crushing his spine. It also does not mention that Abbott regained much of his health and strength thanks to the efforts of many health professionals and extensive physical rehabilitation at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, not merely by his herculean efforts in one of the city’s parking garages. But, so goes politics.
The ad also does not reveal that Abbott sued the homeowner in whose yard the tree was located and won a $10 million dollar judgment against the homeowner’s insurance company. In the wake of that judgment, which makes him financially secure for life, Abbott made “tort reform” a permanent fixture of his political career—a reform that now prevents similarly injured people from securing damage awards like the one he secured.
And what about Abbott’s claim he will employ his parking garage method of strength-building to govern the Lone Star state?
Abbott hawks the claim that education will be the “top priority” in his administration, yet he supported a horrendous $5.4 billion dollar cut to public education by the state’s legislature in 2011. In a 21-page ruling issued the last month, Austin State District Court Judge John Dietz said the Legislature had failed “to meet its constitutional duty to suitably provide for Texas public schools” and thus declared the budget cuts unconstitutional. These cuts made Texas the second worst state in the nation in education spending. As National Education Association reported in 2013, Texas spends $3,000 less than the national average per pupil.
But rather than embrace the Dietz’s ruling, Abbott is expected to appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court in hopes of having it overturned by that Republican-dominated court. Of course, the attorney general will need to find a way to sell his decision until after the November 4th elections. He’s got to keep his “education is my top priority” claim cloaked in deceit.
Abbott also claims he’s tough on crime and will continue to make Texas a model of law-and-order. His campaign boasts that the Attorney General’s office has “awarded over $1 billion to victims of crimes like sexual assault and domestic violence,” but the Huffington Post crunched the numbers and found Abbott’s campaign had not only inflated but misrepresented the $1 billion number. It is Abbott’s way of responding to his gubernatorial opponent’s charge that he ruled against women sexual assault victims four out of five times during his tenure as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court.
The HuffPost, however, did manage to get the Abbott campaign to concede it reached the $1 billion mark by adding up all of the money the Legislature has appropriated for the Crime Victims’ Compensation Program. This includes all the money given to victims in robbery, homicide, DUI, and arson cases—and that total figure for the years 2004 through 2015 amounted to $782 million, not $1 billion. And only $12.4 million of that $782 million was awarded to sexual assault victims—an amount substantially less than the implied $1 billion the Attorney General said he had awarded to them.
And, of course, there are Abbott’s ties to legalized gambling interests which call into question his “law-and-order” bona fides. According to the U.S. Justice Department and a host of independent studies, legalized gambling spawns crime wherever it locates. The six major crimes associated with legalized gambling are burglary, robbery, rape, auto theft, larceny and assault. The Justice Department found that 30 percent of the pathological gamblers arrested in Las Vegas and Des Moines said they had committed at least one robbery during the year prior to their arrest.
While the attorney general says he opposes legalized casinos in Texas, it is a qualified opposition. Abe Herta, an Abbott campaign spokesman, made this clear last January when he articulated the attorney general’s position on casinos in Texas. “The time isn’t right for Texas to go down that path,” Huerta said. But since the Abbott campaign has accepted a $35,000 from billionaire developer and casino magnate Donald Trump and another $450,000 from a network of other gambling interests, it can reasonably be assumed that Gov.
Abbott, if elected, will begin the legalized gambling pathway to repay those interests once he is securely tucked away in the Governor’s Mansion.
There is one thing unmistakably clear about Greg Abbott’s political career: he, like his political ally Governor Rick Perry, takes care of his special interests donors and they take care of him. This was vividly demonstrated by the attorney general’s role in the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute of Texas (CRPIT)—a $3 billion fund established in 2007 by the state legislature at the political behest of Gov. Rick Perry. The purpose of CRPIT was to award grants to legitimate research project trying to find cures for cancer. Before any grant money could be awarded, it was supposed to pass through a scientific review process to make sure the project was legitimate. As attorney general, Abbott was a member of CRPIT’s Oversight Committee that is charged with the legal responsibility of making sure the agency’s funds were spent properly, and only after they had been vetted in the scientific review process. The attorney general did not attend a single meeting of the committee’s 23 meetings held during his tenure on the committee.
What Greg Abbott did find time to oversee was the awarding of $42 million in taxpayer money designated for cancer research that was doled out to some of his wealthiest donors, while they in turned funneled $500,000 back into his gubernatorial campaign’s war chest.
And as shocking as this may seem, the attorney general has overseen the awarding of millions of dollars in state contracts and billions of dollars in bond deals to some of his wealthy donors—all of whom have repaid him with healthy campaign contributions.
Even predatory “payday lenders” have contributed nearly $300,000 to his campaign after the attorney general ruled these sleazy operations could continue to victimize hardworking Texas families by charging unlimited interest rates on their loans.
And given that association, it should not be surprising that Abbott accepted a $75,000 contribution from the infamous Koch brothers, chemical industry barons, after the attorney general ruled that hardworking Texas families do not have a right to know when or where hazardous chemical materials and explosives are stored in their communities.
With his wheelchair ad, Greg Abbott made his handicap an issue in the state’s current gubernatorial campaign. He effectively said the handicap allows him to understand and appreciate the strength necessary to carry Texas deep into the 21st century. But there is another face to the attorney general—once possessed with the character weakness essential to carry on the cronyism, favoritism, and corruption that places the state’s wealthiest one percent over the 99 percent of hardworking Texas families as his predecessor has done.