Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Yakking's over at Republican Party of Texas convention; let the Truth-O-Meter kick in

Gov. Rick Perry addresses delegates at GOP state convention this summer (Associated Press photo).
Gov. Rick Perry addresses delegates at GOP state convention this summer (Associated Press photo).

More than 1,000 people flock to Texas every day

Kicking off the convention's first general session Friday, Cathie Adams, the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas who the next day lost her bid for a full term as chair to Houston lawyer Steve Munisteri, reminded the group that the nation is watching Texas.

Why? "Because they want to know why Texas has managed to weather the economic crisis far better than other states," Adams said. "They want to know why thousands of Americans move to Texas every year in search of a good place to buy a home and raise a family."

Similarly bragging about Texas' economy, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was more specific: "Look at the number of people who are voting with their feet... 1,200, 1,300 a day are coming into Texas from the other 49 states, because they want your Texas dream."

The lieutenant governor's claim echoed a boast Gov. Rick Perry made in December.

We found an estimate of the actual number of people entering the state comes from the Internal Revenue Service, which tracks the addresses of people who file taxes each year, and reports that information to the Census Bureau. The IRS found that 493,840 people switched their residence to Texas between the time they filed in 2007 and when they filed in 2008 — that's about 1,353 people each day.

Statistically speaking, of course, a set number of people aren't moving to Texas every day because that number varies. But if you rely on IRS data collected in 2007 and 2008, more than 1,300 people on average were relocating here during that time frame.

We rated Perry's statement Mostly True, because using the statistic he cited, Perry was counting children born in Texas as new residents from out of state in the statistic. However, our separate research proved him — and now, Adams and Dewhurst — correct.

Twice as many police officers patrol New York City as border patrol agents man the border

Washington-bashing was the big sport this weekend, and Dewhurst joined his brethren in accusing the federal government of failing to protect our borders. We need more manpower, he said.

"I'm at a loss to understand how a 1,900-mile border between Mexico and the United States, how a 4,000 mile border between Canada and the United States — 5,900 miles — there are only half as many border patrol on our border as are authorized cops in New York City," he said Friday. "It's crazy — crazy! Insane."

Dewhurst threw the same stat out during a May 12 interview with the Texas Tribune."You've got almost twice as many cops in New York City as you do on the entire border. That's nuts."

Answering our query, his office provided figures from the New York Police Department indicating that it has about 34,500 officers and from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that the Border Patrol has about 19,100 agents on the northern and southern U.S. borders.

We checked, and those figures stand up. The website for the New York Police Department says the agency's "current uniformed strength is approximately 34,500." And Steven Cribby, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the Border Patrol numbers about 20,000 — 17,000 of whom are stationed on the U.S-Mexico border. An additional 2,100 employees are on the border with Canada, with the rest patrolling coastal waters, primarily near Puerto Rico.

Counting only the border agents that work the southern and northern borders, the NYPD force is about 81 percent larger than the Border Patrol, almost twice the size, as Dewhurst says.

We wondered, though, if it's reasonable to compare cops working the nation's biggest city to officers monitoring our international borders.

We put that question to several law enforcement and criminal justice experts, including Samuel Walker, professor emeritus of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. His assessment: "The comparison of the NYPD and the Border Patrol is completely wrong, given their very different roles and working environments." Because his comparison takes the numbers out of their proper context, we rated his statement as Half True.

And what's a Republican convention without taking a few shots at the competition? Some anti-Democratic claims burned, others fizzled.

Bill White told the White House how to sell Americans on legislation to cap carbon emissions

"When it comes to the kind of Cap and trade legislation that’ll decimate our energy industry, destroy jobs and raise the cost of living, my opponent not only supports it, he coached the Obama administration on how to sell it to America," Perry said Friday, echoing a statement he'd made before we found wanting.

To date, there’s no evidence of White supporting the “cap-and-trade” scheme. So his advising the Democratic president-elect on how to sell the idea amounts to rich campaign fodder for Perry.

Perry’s campaign pointed us to a Nov. 17, 2008 e-mail sent by White, then mayor of Houston, to Rahm Emanuel, who was slotted to become Obama’s chief of staff. The eight-paragraph e-mail, later noted by Perry's campaign in blog posts and an online video advertisement, surfaced on a Chronicle blog on May 18, 2010. White's campaign confirmed the e-mail's authenticity.

White’s recommended to-do’s? His e-mail says Obama should accelerate the use of vehicles that use 40 miles per gallon or more. More advice: fund a program to retrofit 1 million homes and apartments occupied by low-income residents. And, he writes, Obama should encourage new power plants to use cleaner-than-coal natural gas, among steps.

However, White's e-mail is not close to the "how-to" guide Perry claims. Indeed, White's message urges the incoming administration not to push a carbon emissions proposal until after it has advanced other energy-related ideas. Nowhere does the e-mail offer guidance on pitching cap and trade. We rated the statement Pants on Fire.

Bill White supported lawsuits to limit the voting rights of military personnel

Perry also charged White with turning his back on veterans. "My opponent has supported lawsuits to limit the voting rights of service," he said.

For an article posted this week, we checked a similar claim made by the Republican Party of Texas: "Bill White has a long history of trying to limit or even disenfranchise military voters."

In 1997, White supported two lawsuits that sought to throw out hundreds of absentee ballots cast by military members in a South Texas election on grounds that the voters didn't meet residency requirements, and that their votes violated the Voting Rights Act.

At the same time, White also favored a legislative proposal that could have made it harder for military personnel to vote in state and local elections in Texas. Why? For each state or local election back home, the affected voter would have to demonstrate they had a local address in the Texas community, register to vote there, and then request the appropriate absentee ballot.

Did White's positions — which he hasn't backed off — equate to limiting the right of military personnel to vote? Well, he'd certainly make it harder for those personnel wanting to vote in state and local elections with the same ease some exploited to cast ballots in a 1996 election in Val Verde County.

We rated the statement Half True, because the 1997 lawsuits and a moment of legislative action in the wake of one election does not a long history make. The Republicans' statement left the impression White has been working steadily to restrict military voting rights for decades.

More, ahead

Check back for updates; besides shaking out the notebook, we'll roll out similar coverage after the Texas Democratic Party convention, which is scheduled in Corpus Christi later this month.