UT Watch responds to Texan Editorial Board
Texan Editorial Board: "What's the point?"
UT Watch: "Where do we begin?"
On 4/28/04, the Daily Texan editorial board published a Viewpoint entitled "What's the Point?" in which they take a rather wishy-washy stance on the UT Watch Lobbying Report. After talking about some of the merits of our case, they conclude "Debating a vague and feckless law that serves only to give the appearance of ethical practices just wastes everyone's time." One can respond to this in several ways:
a) The law barring state agencies from lobbying is not perfect, but it does make clear that universities can not use public funds to push for a particular piece of legislation. Secondly, while public university officials ARE allowed to "provide public information or to provide information responsive to a request," UT went way beyond this in drafting legislation long before the Legislative session began. For example, in an email from Mark Yudof that we obtained through an open records request, we plainly see Chancellor Yudof directing his staff to begin drafting a tuition deregulation bill - a full two months before the 78th Legislative Session convened. Yudof writes, "On tuition...for now I would like a bill giving the Board of Regents full discretion to set tuition by campus" (See page 8 of the Lobby Report).
b) Our report also painstakingly documents that the UT Board of Regents and the Friends of the University PAC gave campaign donations to key legislators, especially those sitting on education committees, right before and directly after the legislative session and then met with these same lawmakers to push their agenda, which included the hotly-contested tuition deregulation issue. This, I suppose, went right over the Texan editors' heads. Clearly, the Regents and FU-PAC distorted the democratic process by participating in a cynical quid pro quo campaign.
c) The Texan editors claim that since the law can't be enforced, we should just forget about it. The law CAN be enforced, we just have to make sure that it is. The best way to begin to do this is by raising the profile of the issue. Apparently, a spokesman in House Speaker Tom Craddick's office was unaware that there even was a law barring universities from lobbying. From this, the editors conclude that it's pointless to try and enforce the law since no one knows about it. One is tempted to bring up all sorts of analogies about drunk driving and murder, but let's just leave it at this: Isn't it important, considering powerful lawmakers are unaware of laws affecting them, that citizens take it upon themselves to notify them of the law, as well as the way in which it is quite possible being flagrantly violated?