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October 07, 2004

UT Regents: Using our letterhead to raise money for Republicans that Raised our Tuitions

By Byron LaMasters

This is outrageous. Last night, UT's Board of Regents Chair, James Huffines hosted a fundraiser for the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, State Rep. Talmadge Heflin (R-Houston). It was Heflin's committee that passed through tuition deregulation that has raised our tuitions by about thirty percent. But it wasn't good enough for Huffines to simply raise money for Heflin - who balanced the state budget on the backs of students and middle class families. Huffines suggested in his fundaising letter for "Friends of the University PAC" that he was acting on behalf of the university as he used official-looking stationary. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Current and former officials of the University of Texas System, including Board of Regents Chairman James Huffines, last week solicited campaign contributions for a powerful member of the state House under the letterhead of a political action committee bearing the name of the UT System.

The letters sought donations of $500, $1,000 or $2,500 in return for tickets to a reception tonight at Huffines' home in the Pemberton section of West Austin for Rep. Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston. Those who were not interested in contributing were asked to check a box marked "Aggie."

Heflin, who is chairman of the Appropriations Committee, is facing a stiff challenge from Hubert Vo in a race that Democratic Party leaders hope could topple the 21-year veteran of the House.

"If these guys want to endorse Talmadge Heflin, they're entitled to do that. But the name of the PAC drags the university into this, in my view," said Ed Sills, who received a letter in his role as communications director of the Texas AFL-CIO, which has endorsed Vo. "I think it's pretty clear it's not in the interest of any university to start making endorsements in partisan races."

So I guess that Huffines thinks that all of us supporting Hubert Vo aren't real Longhorns? Calling us Aggies? Ya gotta be kidding me. Vo, in a press release yesterday, shot back:

State Representative candidate Hubert Vo today called on University of Texas officials to abandon a fundraising reception scheduled for tonight to benefit his opponent, saying that the high-dollar affair "smacks of political payback" for his opponent's push to raise college tuition rates an average of more than 30 percent during last year's legislative session.

"Talmadge Heflin pushed through a tuition deregulation bill that resulted in a middle-class tax hike on families with college-bound children," Vo said. "Now political appointees at the state's taxpayer-funded flagship university are paying him back by helping him raise campaign cash."


"This reception smacks of political payback and is part and parcel of the continuing corruption controversies that have embroiled the Texas Capitol under the current regime," Vo said.

"A college education has made all the difference in my life," Vo said. "So I find it difficult to understand why higher education officials would raise campaign cash for a career politician whose most recent efforts have closed off that opportunity for a generation of middle-class Texas families."

This is exactly the sort of thing that pisses me off, and turns ordinary people away from politics. How can students expect to have a voice, when our board of regents is in bed with Republicans at the expense of students? I can't afford a $500, $1000 or $2500 donation to offset what the other side is doing, but if the blog community and other students join me in chipping in $10 or $20 to Hubert Vo, we can make a little bit of a difference.

I just made a donation of $20.01. I'd encourage other students and others in the blog community to do the same, and add a penny to let Vo know that its coming from students and the blogs.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at October 7, 2004 03:05 PM | TrackBack


Not Aggies, but almost as bad...Houston Cougars!

Posted by: boifromtroy at October 7, 2004 03:17 PM

I think the "Aggie" thing is tongue and cheek...although all of you Longhorns should only feel so priveleged as to be called Aggies!! Regardless of label, though, I do think it's inappropriate for UT regents (or that of any state university system) to be using the university indirectly as an endorsement tool. The interesting thing is that Chairman Huffines is somehow under the impression that a Republican Appropriations chairman will be better to the university than a Democratic one. Regents are essentially political appointments, but c'mon!

Posted by: RN at October 7, 2004 04:29 PM
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