Grassroots Activists “Pledge” Further Engagement in Texas House

PRESS RELEASE 1/27/11

Vowing to remain actively engaged in the legislative process, several Texas Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations released an Internet video today thanking “The Texas 15” — the fifteen members who voted against Rep. Joe Straus for Speaker. Noting the dismissive remarks in the press, along with what they regard as efforts by some members to extract retribution on the “15,” leaders of many conservative organizations released a high-definition video online today at www.womenonthewall.org expressing their thanks to those “voting on principle.”

“On November 2nd, the people of Texas sent a clear message that they’d had enough of business as usual in Austin. On January 11th, these 15 brave men and women responded to that message by standing against the establishment,” Ken Emanuelson of the Dallas Tea Party said of the video. “They stood with the people and the people won’t forget it.”

Citing recent articles by veteran capitol reporters such as Dave McNeely and others, many leaders say they find the terms used such as “Astroturf” not only inaccurate but offensive, according to Rebecca Forest, Co-Founder of WomenOnTheWall.Org, the producer of the video.

“Tea Party, immigration, pro-life groups and many members and leaders of the Texas GOP came together in a united front to replace Straus — hardly “Astroturf.” Forest continued saying, “The Straus uprising was based largely on his actions last session but even worse to some, was his inaction as he attempted to give the House members a ‘warm and fuzzy’ type of public servant experience.”

Other Conservative and Tea Party leaders revealed new initiatives designed to “keep a keen eye” on the workings of the 82nd Texas Legislature. As an example they highlighted the Texas Tea Party Patriot PAC’s Government Accountability Project which will enlist group members to shadow, report and publish factual information pertaining to elected officials’ records at the federal, state and local levels. “Citizens have an ongoing responsibility in the process of governance that ends not at the ballot box, but extends with daily observation of the votes, words and actions of our elected officials,” Suzanne Guggenheim, one of the organization’s founders, said.

Wayne Richard, a talk radio host in the DFW market and former House District 66 candidate weighed in on the issue. “In today’s political climate it is imperative we elect legislators who have the backbone to vote as their constituents’ desire. Since the opening of this current session, we have a good indication as to who is willing to stand for principle and who isn’t. The people are awake and taking interest in future elections. Texans will remember who they can count on in November 2012.”
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David McNeely: Straus vote shows Right Wing groups losing power
http://itemonline.com/opinion/x1221296783/Dave-McNeely-Straus-vote-shows-Right-Wing-groups-losing-power

Anna Nicole Smith inheritance case threatens American property rights, estate planning process

Texas’ ultimate estate dispute is back this week at the U.S. Supreme Court.  The almost 16-year-old case, now called Stern v. Marshall, is the continued effort of Howard K. Stern, the Anna Nicole Smith estate executor, to extract assets from the estate of J. Howard Marshall II, the Texas millionaire to whom Smith was married for 14 months.  While legal and casual observers often view Smith’s effort to use an unsubstantiated oral claim of entitlement as a money grab that violates Marshall’s carefully prepared and properly executed estate plan, years of litigation have made this case about much more.  In addition to being “about money,” this case will likely produce landmark decisions involving not only inheritance rights, but also determine potential handling for other civil and states’ rights matters.  Americans who believe this “celebrity” case has nothing to do with them are wrong.  The use of legal gamesmanship to assault a legitimate estate plan as orchestrated by Smith and her legal team violates American property rights and could impact Americans of all economic, social and political straits on a number of fronts.

Robert Alt, a Senior Legal Fellow and Deputy Director at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, recently shared perspective on the case explaining “you don’t have to have the size estate that J. Howard Marshall had in order to be concerned about people abusing the process – gaming the system – in order to try and reach results that the settlor of the particular estate wouldn’t have wanted.”  While the public often focuses on case facts such as Smith’s star-quality and the salacious details of the then-young Playboy Playmate’s appearance of trying to game the system in order to get access her dead husband’s millions above and beyond what was spelled out in his estate plan, Alt says the Supreme Court will be looking at the technical question of what bankruptcy courts, both statutorily and Constitutionally, are permitted to do in these types of cases and that “huge implications” exist for this and other cases.

A 2000-2001 Texas probate court trial spanned seven months with a jury finding neither Smith nor her claim to Marshall’s estate credible. Prior to that trial’s conclusion, Smith’s legal team initiated a California bankruptcy proceeding inserting the pending probate court action as an element of the new case and a source of potential assets.  Per Alt, the dual proceedings became a “race to judgment,” at least by the bankruptcy court, to be the court having first issued a final and considered controlling judgment.  And of course, the bankruptcy court found in Smith’s favor.

Ultimately, whichever court – the probate or bankruptcy – is deemed as using proper authority in first issuing a ruling over the Marshall estate will be the controlling entity with its decision theoretically prevailing.  Alt explained though that if the Supreme Court were to find the bankruptcy court as having authority to enter such a ruling, the case goes back to a court of appeals for a determination on other ancillary issues that would potentially impact if the probate court decision is enforced.  Such a development would also open the door for forum shopping (a practice seeking legal cases to be heard in the court thought most likely to provide a favorable judgment) in other type cases.  Though bankruptcy courts do not have the same Constitutionally-mandated authority as other federal and state courts, including probate, Alt says a favorable Supreme Court ruling could position bankruptcy courts to more easily reach out and address issues that may be properly being decided by probate courts in other states.

The material elements of Smith’s bankruptcy counterclaim were argued in the probate court.  She raised the second (bankruptcy) claim upon foreseeing a lack of success in Texas.  In looking for “another bite of the apple” and finding a bankruptcy judge reportedly viewed by some as star-struck, a new litigation front was established.  “We don’t have federal courts and bankruptcy courts so that people can try to game the system and go to a more favorable jurisdiction,” Alt said.  “If the Supreme Court were to find Smith-type counterclaims were appropriate to bankruptcy courts, other forum shopping efforts won’t be issued just to probate.  It would only be limited by the imagination of the particular litigants.”

If the Smith estate were to prevail, it is unclear as to the financial stake that might awarded.  And whose interests is the Smith estate’s continued pursuit of this case ultimately, truly serving?  With 16 years of litigation, whatever money the estate could wrongfully get is being bled away by the lawyers.  Trips to the Supreme Court don’t come cheaply!  While it’s not known that this litigation could trickle down as a financial liability to Smith’s daughter Dannielynn, Alt says it certainly is not clear that this playing of the “litigation lottery” will work down to Dannielynn’s benefit in any substantial way.

What kind of legal gamesmanship are we going to permit when it comes to estate planning?  What kind of forum shopping is going to be allowed?  Permissiveness in these areas stands to undermine an individual’s ability to determine their final asset distribution and heirs or other designated beneficiaries’ rights of inheritance.

The ultimate importance of this case, Alt says, centers on the most important feature of estate planning:  certainty.  You’re making plans, committing wishes to writing to see that your wishes are carried out upon death.  J. Howard Marshall II taught estate law at Yale Law School.  Not only was he sophisticated about the issue, but he retained some of Texas’ finest lawyers to assemble his estate plan.  If Marshall can’t have counted on his estate plan being honored, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of us.

A ruling could be rendered as early as April, but certainly prior to June when the Supreme Court session ends.  Meanwhile, Stern v. Marshall stands as an example that estate planning only adds predictability if competent courts (and judges) uphold the rule of law and our court system takes a stand against the use of legal gamesmanship designed to subvert intended bequests.  Without these measures, “proper estate planning” is meaningless and the property of all Americans is at risk.

Lou Ann Anderson is an advocate working to create awareness regarding the Texas probate system and its surrounding culture.  She is the Online Producer at www.EstateofDenial.com, a Policy Advisor with Americans for Prosperity – Texas Foundation and a Director of Women on the Wall.  Lou Ann may be contacted at [email protected].

Will 2011 bring the bursting of a “college bubble”?

As the Texas legislature along with many other state governments prepare to grapple with budget shortfalls and spending cuts, public college and university funding are likely to come under great scrutiny.  With that, a recent National Inflation Association article warns that the bursting of a “college bubble,” akin to the real estate bubble, could happen this year and bring widespread consequences.

We agree with the article’s basic premise that too many of today’s high school students are being funneled into college for purposes that better serve the employment and power-coalescing machines associated with higher education rather than helping to prepare all of these young people to be productive members of society.  College is an appropriate and important path for some students, however, others may find technical or skills-based training facilities – especially with a clearly defined field of interest – a far more beneficial and cost effective course.

As higher education costs rise, many of these kids are being encouraged to take on debt disproportional to the earning power their degree or certification will ever generate making this a decision with long-lasting and financially detrimental consequences.  And unfortunately, it’s members of the higher education industry or their surrogates that encourage this action.  We wish more financially responsible parents were in the mix so as to better counsel their children, but that general absence contributes to this and many other troublesome societal trends.

Friends and associates with recent experience on college campuses tell stories of waste, even fraud, associated with Pell Grants.  We know respectable, productive people who say that without such funding, their college experience might have been unattainable or at least far more difficult.  Today’s climate, however, also encourages disinterested and unmotivated students seeking only to “scam” the system.  This disservice is perpetrated by the higher education industry and other politically correct allies promoting a false sense of education equality over sensible public policies.  And who is hurt in this equation?  Legitimate students genuinely seeking to maximize educational opportunities, American taxpayers who foot the bill and American businesses that can’t find appropriately qualified candidates to fill positions.

This column additionally attracted our interest at EstateofDenial.com because of this reference to higher education and the legal industry:

All across America, thousands of students are graduating law school each year with $250,000 in debt, but with no jobs at law firms available to them. 15,000 attorney and legal staff jobs have disappeared since 2008, yet 43,000 law degrees are being handed out each year. Law degrees are losing their value faster than the U.S. dollar is losing its purchasing power. Lawyers are non-producing workers that do nothing to create any real wealth for society. The artificially high incomes of lawyers are made possible entirely by inflation, which steals the wealth from hard working goods producing middle-class Americans and transfers it to those who add no real value to society.

With estate abuse and probate corruption as our focus, we address all aspects of the issue.  EoD reports on how many estate disputes (via wills, trusts guardianships or powers of attorney) are contrived so as to generate billable hours for the involved attorneys.  It’s a form of barratry, a criminal practice involving the generation of profit for legal services by an attorney who stirs up a dispute and encourages lawsuits in order to file a groundless claim.  With the aging Baby Boomers, extended lifespans and families not living in close proximity as once was the case, one can reasonably wonder that a supply of unemployed or under-employed lawyers might find probate an appealing growth area.  It’s a position that bodes badly for an unsuspecting public whose assets now become “up for grabs.”  These conditions also illustrate the college scam concept of self-serving universities aggressively recruiting students to potentially assume great debt for entry into a professional field with diminishing opportunities.

This National Inflation Association column isn’t an across-the-board discrediting of college educations.  It merely offers timely comparative data, substantive reasoning and good advice to the youth of America today to “think for yourselves.”  It’s perspective that adults in these young people’s lives would also do well to adopt.

Lou Ann Anderson is an advocate working to create awareness regarding the Texas probate system and its surrounding culture.  She is the Online Producer at www.EstateofDenial.com, a Policy Advisor with Americans for Prosperity – Texas Foundation and a Director of Women on the Wall.  Lou Ann may be contacted at [email protected].

Thanks Rep. Berman for again taking a stand for “We The People” of Texas!

Over the past several months we  have witnessed a  grassroots “uprising” in Texas thanks to the Texas House “Speaker’s Showdown.”  The Co-Founders of Women on the Wall were proud to take a stand with fellow grassroots activists across this great State.   We have many to thank for what WOW contributed to this battle.  First, Rob Hurlburt for his brilliant creation Texas House “Speaker Showdown” (in various versions) and those who donated to help pay for  it to air on TV in key Texas districts leading up to the January 11th vote.  

Among those walking the halls and grounds of the Capitol with us the past two days were  Texas Tea Party leaders/members,  immigration activists,  and many members of the Texas GOP leadership.   We were all unified in our steadfast opposition to the re-election of Joe Straus as House Speaker. 

Yesterday was truly a sad day for Texas as many in the current  body of  House Representatives completely shunned the desires of a vast number of their constituents.   Once again, Texans have Representative Leo Berman to thank for standing his ground  on principle and demanding a floor vote.  He will take a lot of heat from his fellow Representatives as his action helped to “out” the Republicans who were so desperately trying to avoid a floor vote!    This is not the first time Representative Berman has done the right thing for Texas in spite of the unpleasant consequences that follow. 

The “Speaker’s Race” was a horse of a different color to most  Texans.  The biggest obstacle activist groups faced was trying to explain the importance of  this previously understated event to those outside the loop.   While that aspect of the “Oust Straus” effort was challenging, explaining the importance of defeating huge numbers of those who voted for Joe Straus WILL NOT be a difficult task moving forward.  

During the run up to the Republican primaries, we have ample time to get our message out to the voters and we have a large number of very upset Texans organized and well connected to follow through.  We have Resolute Media and the many sponsors who helped coordinate and fund the hospitality/staging area for the Capitol events to thank for making sure months of coordinated efforts ended on a productive note  — no matter what the outcome of the vote.   Rest assured,  time and money will not be an obstacle once our networks have identified qualified challengers to those who chose the wrong path! 

If anything, the arrogance and corruption we witnessed at the “People’s House” January 10th and 11th was much worse than most of us imagined.  While many political operatives, bloggers, and media organizations try to portray the grassroots anti-Straus movement as a failure, our promise is:  SEE YOU IN 2012 — We Will Remember!!

Tea Party Caucus Membership Will Not Shield Legislators Who Vote for Straus in 2011

 
In defiance of calls by key conservative leaders in Texas for a Conservative Texas House Speaker in 2011, Rep. Lois Kolkhorst [R-HD13] and Rep. Beverly Woolley [R-HD136] have decided nevertheless to elect Joe Straus for a second term as House Speaker.  
 
In response to their decision, Women on the Wall has today released the new Houston version of their current ad campaign — Fall of the RINOS — Texas House “Speaker Showdown”TV ad which is featured on You Tube at the STOPJOEINFO Channel. The Houston version of the “Speaker Showdown” adwill air in key Houston and DFW districts in the lead up to the January 11th vote.  (View at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Iqd8wnOlpE).
 
“It is truly amazing that these two legislators have decided to thumb their noses at the grassroots who overwhelmingly support a change in House leadership,” said Rebecca Forest, Co-Founder and President of Women on the Wall.  “No matter what their conservative ratings have been in the past, if they vote for Straus they will face a well funded challenger in the 2012 Republican primary.”    
 
Heritage Alliance recently conducted a poll of 28,980 Republican primary voters in 77 GOP held Texas House districts and found that nearly 90% of the respondents wanted a more conservative speaker than Straus.  
 
“For starters, neither Kolkhorst nor Woolley are dyed in the wool conservatives in the same vein as Ken Paxton,” said Forest “and anyone who suggests either of these women are the “Tea Party Queens” of Texas misrepresent the truth – pure and simple.”  
 
“RINO hunting in Texas is really being taken to another level with Straus supporters running for cover under Sen. Dan Patrick’s newly formed “Tea Party Caucus” said Alice Linahan, a leader with the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition and Texas Project coordinator. Adding, “The caucus is rapidly being exposed as the most recent attempt to trick less informed constituents into believing Joe Straus is “conservative enough” to pass the litmus test.”  
 
Battle lines are being drawn in the Republican Party across the nation but most certainly in Texas where establishment GOP moderates are spending millions to hold on to their power in the House.  Conservative groups, emboldened by the recent victory in the courts (Free Market Foundation, et al. v. David A. Reisman, et al) pledge to run opposition candidates in the GOP 2012 primaries.

Texas Tea Parties Plan for “Speaker Showdown” in Austin on January 11, 2011

Resolute Media Group, Emergent Consulting, TCOT Report, Women on the Wall, Kaufman Tea Party, and Tea Party Movement 911 are putting together a staging area for all the Tea Parties going to the Capital Jan. 10th and the 11th.

“We The People” Texas 2011 and Beyond”.

We have secured a conference room for both the 10th and 11th and doors open at 8AM.

We would like you to join this open house project, come in register that you were there, pick up materials such as surveys and information that you can hand deliver to the State Reps offices.  This will be especially important Monday morning before the caucus. We will stay open so you can come back and enjoy some Texas hospitality.

We will also have media there for you to share your story and opinion and document the real stories and numbers of Tea Parties that are there for the two days!

The strategy is also to announce this event in a big way before the caucus and vote so the State Reps on the bubble will know that we will be there and either way  the vote goes we are networking and planning to primary them depending on their vote. Do they want to be on the list that is a target after the vote.    That is their choice.

We The People – 2011 and Beyond
Location – La Quinta -Capital
300 E. 11th Street
Austin, Texas

Date: Jan 10th 8 AM -8 PM
Jan 11th 8 AM -8 PM

Alice Linahan
Managing Partner
Resolute Media Group
Resolute Media Group Facebook
[email protected]

This is not to replace any Protests or Rallies  planned at the capital it is just to have a central meeting place and staging area for all Tea Parties to congregate, network, and plan for how to move forward in 2011 and beyond.
If you would like to join our other great sponsors please contact me ASAP and we will add you to the list.