State Representative Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving) is now known as Linda Harper-Benz. (Reelected by 18 votes in 2008, she might be called Landslide Linda, as well.) This TRW (True Republican Woman) is the personification of Dumbo-Evil. Another Texas woman, with a truer heart, foretold the coming of Linda Harper-Benz:
[x YouTube/Arkenciel2z Channel]
"Mercedes Benz" (1970)
By Janis Joplin
Pray that you don't meet Linda Harper-Benz in a dark alley. A passer-by looking over this blogger's shoulder as he labored over a hot Wi-Fi keyboard while creating this post looked at the video clip of Linda Harper-Benz. This blogger doesn't look directly at the sun and he doesn't look at True Republican Women if he can help it. As for the nosy passer-by, he turned into a pillar of salt as he stared at Harper-Benz. If this is a (fair & balanced) tale of sleaze, so be it.
PS: Use the hyperlinks below to hip-hop through another Twin Quinella in this blog.
[Vannevar Bush Hyperlink — Bracketed Numbers — Directory]
 Please, Lord, Give Linda A Mercedes Loaner
 Linda Benz Over Backwards To Avoid The Issue
 The Lone Star Project Benz Linda Over
[4} The Austin Fishwrap Throws Linda Under The Mercedes
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[x Dallas Fishwrap]
Questions Raised About Representative Linda Harper-Brown's Use Of A Mercedes
By Brandon Formby and Gromer Jeffers Jr.
Tag Cloud of the following article
State Representative Linda Harper-Brown, who sits on the powerful House Transportation Committee, drives a luxury car owned by a company that makes millions through state transportation contracts.
Harper-Brown, R-Irving, requested and received State Official license plates for a 2010 Mercedes E550 sedan and 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe. But Durable Enterprises Equipment Ltd. owns the vehicles. Harper-Brown’s husband, William E. Brown III, said the cars are compensation for accounting work he does for the owner of Durable and that he lets his wife drive the Mercedes.
Harper-Brown has not reported the cars on financial disclosure statements or in campaign finance reports, but her husband said she doesn't have to because they are part of his pay. She declined several requests for interviews this week. Her campaign spokesman referred questions to her husband.
The arrangement has led to questions about whether Harper-Brown is obligated to report her use of expensive items owned by state contractors operating in a field her committee oversees. And the situation has some questioning the toughness of Texas ethics laws.
Craig McDonald, director of the political watchdog group Texans for Public Justice, said the relationship between Harper-Brown, her husband and the companies “stinks to high heaven.”
He said any loopholes in the state law allowing the couple to avoid disclosure should be closed.
"It calls out for mandated disclosure," McDonald said.
Jeffrey C. Bryan of Arlington owns Durable and several other related companies that have received more than $12.3 million in contracts from the Texas Department of Transportation since 2007.
One of Bryan's companies, Paradigm Traffic Systems, Inc., got into the business of selling red-light camera components after Harper-Brown won passage of a controversial red-light camera bill during her freshman legislative session in 2003.
Brown, who runs his own accounting firm, said his wife hasn't done anything illegal or improper. He said it's his prerogative to let his wife drive one of the cars he receives for compensation.
"Just like I buy her supper; just like I buy her groceries," Brown said.
Democrats have targeted Harper-Brown this year because she won re-election in 2008 by only 19 votes.
Texas Values in Action Coalition, a partisan political action group that tries to get Democratic candidates elected to state offices, forwarded information about Harper-Brown's activities to authorities. State and federal authorities said they have received the information, but declined to comment.
"It looks like she's taken something of value to perform her official duties as a legislator," said Ed Cloutman, an attorney for the group.
State officials are not required to disclose gifts over $250 if they come from close family members. Brown said the cars are his compensation and that he gave the Mercedes to Harper-Brown.
On Harper-Brown's 2010 financial disclosure statement filed in February, someone underlined the portion of the form that says officials must report their spouse's financial activity only if they "had actual control over" that activity.
Brown said this week that his wife does not have to disclose the cars because she does not own a part of his accounting business.
"This is not uncommon in Texas politics," said Ed Shack, an attorney for Brown.
Cloutman said he didn't buy Brown's contention that his wife didn't have control over his assets, in this case the automobiles.
"She's driving the asset," he said. "She puts gas in the asset. She put state tags on the assets."
Brown has by far been his wife's biggest campaign donor since she first ran for the legislature in 2002. In the past eight years, Brown has provided his wife with more than $330,000 in loans for her election campaigns.
Brown this week declined to reveal how much money he makes or how much in total he is paid from Bryan's companies. He said Bryan's companies are not the only state vendors he counts among his clients.
Bryan declined to comment.
Public records and Harper-Brown's Twitter account show the state representative may have ties to Bryan, his family and his companies outside of her husband and his accounting firm. In the profile picture for her campaign's Twitter account, Harper-Brown can be seen wearing a jacket with the name Durable Specialties on it. Durable Specialties is another one of Bryan's companies.
Harper-Brown's campaign spokesman said the man next to Harper-Brown in the picture is Bryan and that the photo was originally used during one of her Irving City Council election campaigns.
At Irving council meetings in 1997 and 2002, minutes show that Harper-Brown abstained from voting on city contracts awarded to Paradigm while she was a council member. Minutes from the 1997 meeting say that she filed a conflict of interest affidavit. Irving officials this week said they do not believe the affidavit still exists. The state allows such documents to be destroyed after two years.
Brown said he did not know why his wife disclosed a conflict while on the council. He said it could be because council members directly vote on vendor contracts, while state legislators do not.
Also, a woman named Pam Bryan in 2008 gave Harper-Brown $3,300 in campaign contributions. Michael Fiske, who used to co-own Paradigm with Jeff Bryan, said Pam is the name of his associate's wife.
Fiske is still chairman of Paradigm, but said he sold his stake in it in 2008. He said he knows Harper-Brown, but does not know the details of the arrangement for the cars, which are currently worth about $70,000.
Fiske said that Paradigm's ties to Harper-Brown had nothing to do with the millions in contracts the company has received from TxDOT.
Bill Hale, Dallas district engineer for TxDOT, said contracts are voted on by transportation commissioners appointed by the governor. He said it is unlikely that a state representative would be able to influence the awarding of contracts.
Fiske said that Paradigm for a short time entered the red-light camera market in Texas, but stopped after it was unable to generate substantial revenues.
"That wasn't a very profitable business, or we'd still be in it," he said.
Harper-Brown in her first legislative session in 2003 passed a bill that never mentioned cameras, but gave cities the ability to issue civil penalties to motorists. The House had voted 103-34 in 2003 against allowing any red-light cameras in the state, even if the money went to trauma care at hospitals. She tacked an industry-supplied amendment onto another bill.
It wasn't discovered until after the legislative session that an avenue had been opened to create red-light cameras — and along with it a new industry of selling related devices and services by companies like Paradigm.
McDonald, of the Texans for Public Justice watchdog group, said the lack of disclosure by Harper-Brown of ties to Bryan's companies is unethical.
"There's also, perhaps, other criminal violations," he said. "It's hard to know without having all the facts, but there's cause for an investigation."
[Brandon Formby is a staff writer for the Dallas Morning News and received a BA in journalism from Texas Tech University. Gromer Jeffers Jr. is a Metro columnist for the same paper and received a BA in journalism and political science from Howard University. Morning News staff writer Christy Hoppe in Austin and Brad Watson of WFAA-TV in Dallas contributed to this report.]
Copyright © 2010 The Dallas Morning News
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[x YouTube/Lhbcampaign Channel]
By Linda Harper-Brown
[In the biographical data of the 81st Texas Legislature, Harper-Brown listed her occupation as "CEO" and her education as "Texas colleges."]
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[x Lone Star Project]
"A Lick Of Proof"
By Matt Angle
[Matt Angle formed the Lone Star Project in 2005 as a federal political action committee (PAC) that would serve as a fact-checker on the Republican Party in Texas as well as on the national level. Angle holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington.]
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[x Austin Fishwrap]
Texas Lawmaker Thrown Under The Mercedes?
By The Austin Fishwrap Editorial Board
Tag Cloud of the following editorial
We know the elections aren't until November. We know there's plenty more campaign nonsense to come. Nevertheless, we are tempted to immediately shut down nominations in the category of Most Ridiculous Political Effort of 2010.
It's going to be tough to top Representative Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, and her YouTube response [above] to a Dallas Morning News/WFAA-TV report about the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E550 she drives that is owned by a firm that has millions of dollars in state transportation contracts.
Harper-Brown is on the House Transportation Committee. And, FYI, her husband also drives a vehicle owned by the firm that provided her Mercedes. Both vehicles feature State Official license plates.
We'll get back to the details in a moment, but we can't wait to tell you about how Harper-Brown defends against the apparent conflicts of interest. Actually, in the video, she doesn't really offer a defense, other than that all of this is a result of liberals, lawyers and the "mainstream media."
If you watch one YouTube video in your lifetime, please make it this one. There are no kitties playing the piano, but you're going to love the Harper-Brown performance [in the clip above].
She opens with a reference to her great-great-grandfather, who was an Irving founder. Then we hear about all she's done for Irving schools, et cetera.
"And, as your representative, I fought to make sure our state government is lean and efficient and our taxes remain as low as possible," she tells us. "This approach doesn't sit well with liberal special-interest groups, trial lawyers and Austin Democrats. And their desperate actions this week prove they will do anything to push their bigger-government, higher-taxes agenda."
That, as Harper-Brown sees it, includes "misleading political attacks" that Irving residents "may have seen in the press."
"The sad reality is that the mainstream media, trial lawyer groups and Washington, DC, liberals just won't let the truth get in the way of a good political attack," she said, adding that the story about her Mercedes is misleading.
"The real story here is just how desperate the Democratic Party is to bring the Obama-Pelosi agenda to Texas," Harper-Brown concludes as she knocks "the 25-year-old government employee from San Antonio" running against her (that would be Democrat Loretta Haldenwang, who, Harper-Brown wants you to know is "just a few years out of high school.")
Haldenwang is a former aide to Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio. She moved to Irving in 2007 to serve as the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's external affairs director and later became a consultant for small businesses. Haldenwang, according to Harper-Brown (who won re-election in 2008 by 19 votes) is a "liberal carpetbagger."
That's in the 4½-minute video, which is silent about the Mercedes, save for an assurance that "my husband and I have always taken extra steps to make sure my personal financial statements fully comply with the law. And we keep our business interests completely separate to avoid any kind of conflicts."
Here are the facts: Harper-Brown's Mercedes is owned by Durable Enterprises Equipment Ltd., as is the 2005 Chevrolet Tahoe driven by her husband William E. Brown III. Durable is owned by Jeffrey C. Bryan of Arlington, who, through Durable and related firms, has procured $12.3 million in state contracts since 2007. In 2003, Harper-Brown won legislative OK for the measure allowing cities to install red-light cameras. A Bryan company then got into that business.
Other than the YouTube video, Harper-Brown is letting her husband address questions about the vehicles. Brown told the Dallas Morning News that Durable is a longtime client of his accounting firm, and use of the vehicles is compensation. And he lets his wife drive the Mercedes.
"Just like I buy her supper; just like I buy her groceries," Brown told the Dallas paper.
Legal? Illegal? Should have been reported on Harper-Brown's personal financial statements? That's for lawyers to sort out.
Dumb? Looks bad? Best avoided? Shows a certain lack of concern about how this kind of stuff gnaws at public confidence in government? Yes, yes, yes and yes.
Attached to the YouTube video is a Harper-Brown statement noting the prenuptial agreement that makes her husband's business interests separate from hers; the fact that Brown's accounting work for Durable began 18 years prior to her election to the House and that her personal financial statement "is complete, current and accurate."
Interesting facts, all. And they could be important when lawyers start looking at Harper-Brown's Mercedes, as could the fact that Harper-Brown, while on the Irving City Council, abstained from voting on city contracts granted to a Bryan business in 1997 and 2002. In 1997, she filed a conflict of interests affidavit in conjunction with her abstention.
But no matter how you look at this deal, it looks bad. If for no reason other than appearances, Harper-Brown should stop driving a luxury car owned by a company that does high-dollar business with the state. Ω
[Austin Fishwrap Editorial Board: Michael Vivio Publisher, Edward Burns CFO, Editor Fred Zipp, Managing Editor Debbie Hiott, Editorial Page Editor Arnold Garcia, Jr., Editorial Writers Alberta Phillips and Ken Herman]
Copyright © 2010 The Austin American-Statesman
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