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Texas’ Rep. Pitts announces retirement after improper influence story

By   /   August 22, 2013  /   News  /   2 Comments

Part 1 of 65 in the series Trouble in Texas

PITTS: announced his retirement Thursday, a day after blasting Wallace Hall in National Review.

By Jon Cassidy | Watchdog.org

AUSTIN — State Rep. Jim Pitts, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, announced Thursday he won’t run for re-election, less than a day after a curious statement he gave to National Review in response to a question about the improper use of influence.

On any other day, Pitts’ quote in the National Review would have made more news, but he was overshadowed by another improper influence story that also broke Wednesday night: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s call to a police station after a relative was arrested.

The Pitts story, though, is likely to prove far more important, as the question it raises affects Texans everywhere: are powerful lawmakers using their connections to get the children of donors and other VIPs admitted to top public schools?

It’s not idle speculation. Wallace Hall, a regent of the University of Texas system, said he has proof of two lawmakers going above the admissions board to influence decision-making.

The fervor with which Pitts and a group of legislators have pursued Hall with nonsensical accusations and threats of impeachment has one explanation: they want to shut him down.

Kevin Williamson of National Review blasted the lawmakers Tuesday, then published a curious postscript Wednesday night:

“Today I put the question to Representative Jim Pitts, chairman of the powerful house appropriations committee in the Texas legislature. Representative Pitts’s son is a recent graduate of the UT law school. Representative Pitts responded angrily to the suggestion that he might have a personal interest in not seeing Mr. Hall’s investigatory work made public, but he did not deny having intervened with the law school on behalf of his son. His full response reads:

‘As a parent, I find it truly disgraceful that some are trying to drag my children—or the children of other legislators—into a debate over governance at the University of Texas System and the possible impeachment of Wallace Hall. This is nothing more than a pathetic, cowardly attempt by Mr. Hall’s allies—and possibly Mr. Hall himself—to distract from important questions about whether our flagship university system is being run appropriately. Any parent whose child has ever sought admission at the University of Texas should be deeply concerned that Mr. Hall’s allies would share children’s confidential admissions information with the news media in order to fulfill their insatiable appetite for harassing UT students and employees.’”

There aren’t too many ways to read an emotional non-denial of that sort. As Williamson put it, if he didn’t pull strings for his son, “then he should do himself a favor and say as much.”

Contact Jon Cassidy at [email protected] or @jpcassidy000.

Part of 65 in the series Trouble in Texas
  1. Texas’ Rep. Pitts announces retirement after improper influence story
  2. University of Texas regents show support for Wallace Hall
  3. Case against UT regent Wallace Hall is a sham — here’s proof
  4. Texas senator got $477k for supposed ‘cameo’ appearance in Wallace Hall lawsuit
  5. Lawmaker admits pulling strings on UT admissions
  6. Trustee accused of crime for rejecting dodgy accounting
  7. Longhorns: Senator used clout in UT law school admissions
  8. Children of Texas lawmakers get into UT School of Law, but struggle to pass bar exam
  9. Chancellor is probing favoritism in UT admissions
  10. UT report: Charge against Hall is legally ‘absurd’
  11. Attorney in UT case hides six-figure charges despite terms of contract
  12. University of Texas clout scandal grows as new e-mails surface
  13. Four more get into UT Law despite low LSATs
  14. Reports on UT favoritism, impeachment expected soon
  15. Attorney: Secret tape covered up by lawmakers proves regent’s innocence
  16. Dozens of UT Law’s least qualified students are connected politically
  17. University of Texas uncovers admissions corruption, halts investigation
  18. UT admissions: Straus, Branch, Pitts pulled strings
  19. Who got the 128? UT Law admits students with bad LSAT scores
  20. Patrick’s win may doom Hall impeachment effort
  21. Chancellor promises complete investigation of UT admissions
  22. Board to decide UT president’s fate Thursday
  23. Texas politicians smarten up, ditch UT pres this time around
  24. Tribune story may have doomed UT’s Powers
  25. Academics condone the privilege they denounce
  26. Three essential stories on the UT admissions scandal
  27. Texas AG Greg Abbott embraces Roe v. Wade
  28. Roe v. Wade is AG’s new pretext for blocking Texas law school investigation
  29. Two UT regents pressed for records destruction
  30. New crime invented for Hall: assisted guesswork
  31. Texas lawmaker failed to disclose his own clout letter in UT flap
  32. Texas legislator Fischer insists on role in UT investigation
  33. Hutchison pulled strings for friends’ kids and grandkids at UT
  34. Ex-UT Law dean’s credit card bill: $400k in four years
  35. Abbott’s UT picks are pro-affirmative action
  36. Report: University of Texas showed favoritism to thousands
  37. Kroll ignored hundreds of weak UT applications
  38. Billionaire defends UT admissions privileges for ‘leaders’
  39. Weak admissions to University of Texas Law increased after Sager’s ouster
  40. Kroll report takes dig at Watchdog.org
  41. Hicks won’t stop UT’s backdoor admits
  42. Texas governor’s wife was on UT nominee’s payroll
  43. Bill to limit UT oversight clears committee
  44. UT regent blasts speaker for ‘abuse of office’
  45. Texas politician rebuts himself with apparently plagiarized letter
  46. Pay-to-play scandal involves UT dean, Texas Exes
  47. Supreme Court asked to look at UT’s backdoor admissions program
  48. Lawmakers want UT applications shielded from scrutiny
  49. McRaven makes UT scandal his own
  50. An open letter to Attorney General Ken Paxton on the UT cover-up
  51. Chancellor Bill McRaven’s UT cover-up has no defenders
  52. UT’s back door still open, but can’t stay secret, AG rules
  53. Whitewash: Kroll left dozens of bad LSATs out of UT report
  54. McRaven’s defense to Hall lawsuit refuted by own words
  55. Ready for the end of affirmative action?
  56. UT admissions scandal is 10 times bigger than official report
  57. McRaven trolls Dallas Morning News
  58. Powers to get top salary at UT Law
  59. UT sues to block Watchdog access to admissions investigation
  60. UT approves ‘Spinal Tap’ policy for backdoor admissions
  61. Admissions survey: No, UT, everybody doesn’t do it
  62. UT admissions scandal prompts new investigation
  63. Ticket scandal a black mark for UT, DA
  64. Showdown over UT cover-up nears end
  65. McRaven’s rationale for UT cover-up denounced by regents, AG

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Jon Cassidy is the Houston-based reporter for Watchdog.org. He used to report for The Orange County Register and The Hill, and his work has been published by Fox News, Reason, The American Spectator, The Federalist, Human Events, and other publications. You can reach Jon at [email protected]

  • Norman S Stahl

    trying to figure out what influential parent would not try to get their kid admitted to a good school!

  • hocash

    A parent with ethics?