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 firstname.lastname@example.org or @jpcassidy000.