“Thomas Ratliff’s Brazen Gall”
Donna Garner – It takes brazen gall for a person to do what Thomas Ratliff is doing. Thomas Ratliff is currently under investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s office because Ratliff was elected to the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) even though the Texas Education Code says clearly that a person who is a registered lobbyist is not eligible to serve on the SBOE.
Texas Education Code: Subchapter A, Section 7.103 (c):
(c) A person who is required to register as a lobbyist under Chapter 305, Government Code, by virtue of the person’s activities for compensation in or on behalf of a profession, business, or association related to the operation of the board, may not serve as a member of the board or act as the general counsel to the board.
Here is SBOE Chair Gail Lowe’s 3.2.11 letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott requesting an opinion on the SBOE-registered lobbyist law:
THOMAS RATLIFF, REGISTERED LOBBYIST
Thomas Ratliff has been a registered lobbyist with the Texas Ethics Commission since 1998. One of his most lucrative clients is Microsoft earning him between $25,000 – $50,000 each year since 1998.
Please go to the bottom of this e-mail where I have posted the link to my 2.17.11 article entitled “Ratliff: Attempting to Hoodwink the Public.” In this article, I have copied information from the Texas Ethics Commission which details some of Thomas Ratliff’s education-related clients and the tens of thousands of dollars he has made from each.
The SBOE is the caretaker of the Permanent School Fund (PSF). On May 30, 2010, Microsoft was one of the PSF’s top five stocks at $157.16 million.
The SBOE makes very important decisions over all Texas public school children, educators, and the Permanent School Fund (PSF) that pays for Texas students’ textbooks.
Below is the link to Ratliff’s bio posted on the Texas Education Agency’s website where he lists himself as a “governmental relations consultant and lobbyist.”
Thomas Ratliff also lobbies members of the Texas Legislature. He has the power of the purse because undoubtedly he is the one who advises his lucrative clients to which Texas Legislators to give campaign contributions. Is it any wonder that legislators are so ready to welcome Ratliff into their inner circle?
Thomas Ratliff may be the only elected official in Texas who was a registered, full-time professional lobbyist before running for state office and remains a full-time registered professional lobbyist after being elected to the SBOE.
SBOE MEANT TO BE FIERCELY INDEPENDENT OF LOBBYISTS
The people of Texas knew what they were doing when they set up the Texas Education Code to keep the SBOE fiercely independent of lobbyists and outside vested interests. SBOE members receive no remuneration of any kind, have no paid staffs, and have no paid office equipment or cell phones.
This fierce independence from lobbyists and outside interests was maintained by the SBOE until Thomas Ratliff came along as a candidate in 2010.
Ratliff ignored the Texas Education Code, blatantly raised money for his campaign from other wealthy lobbyists and special interest groups, and beat out conservative Don McLeroy for the position.
FACTS AND QUESTIONS
Fact: Ratliff has been on the SBOE for exactly ONE meeting (January 2011), yet he has cast himself as an authority on the SBOE — the “go to” man for Texas Legislators, the person to help direct the configurations of the SBOE redistricting maps for 2012 (all seats will be up for grabs), the person with whom NAACP and LULAC collude to carry out their lawsuit over the Social Studies standards, and the person the liberal news media loves to quote. One single SBOE meeting vs. years of service on the SBOE by the other experienced members – Thomas Ratliff is no authority on the SBOE!
Question: When Thomas Ratliff testified before the Senate Education Committee, the Sunset Review Committee, and the Redistricting Committee, did he do so as a “one-meeting” member of the SBOE or as a registered, professional lobbyist?
Question: When Ratliff testified before the Senate Education Committee on 3.29.11 about SB 6 – HB 6 which he stated he just “loves,” why did he not mention the fact that he is a registered lobbyist for Microsoft? SB 6 – HB 6 contain language that will transform the payout of the Permanent School Fund, and Microsoft will derive huge benefits from these changes.
Question: When Ratliff speaks at public meetings, does he represent himself as an SBOE member or as a professional, registered lobbyist? I believe the audience would want to know that information.
Question: How loudly would the liberal media howl if any of the conservative SBOE members:
- Lived in Austin during the entire legislative session;
- Made millions as registered lobbyists wining and dining wealthy clients who invest in education-related products that come before the SBOE for consideration;
- Were “useless members” of the committee on the Permanent School Fund (January 2011) because they had to recuse themselves from three separate votes because of conflict of interest problems with lobbying clients?
Question: I wonder how long it would take for a good reporter to point out the fact that even if Thomas Ratliff recuses himself from votes on the SBOE, this still would not resolve conflict of interest problems because of (1) possible backroom deals he might be making and (2) confidential information that he might be sharing with his clients.
TO SERVE OR TO BE SERVED — MOTIVE
When I consider Texas State Board of Education members, I always look at motive for their service. Do they wish to serve or be served?
Based upon Thomas Ratliff’s history, comments made at the January 2011 SBOE meeting, testimony given at the Senate Education Committee, and manipulative actions exhibited at the House Redistricting Committee on 4.2.11 in which he purportedly talked the members into changing up many of the SBOE members’ 2012 districts to harm conservative members’ chances of being elected, I believe it is correct to say that Thomas Ratliff is not on the SBOE to serve the public school students and educators of this state.
DEDICATION REQUIRED TO BE AN SBOE MEMBER
SBOE members have larger districts with more constituents than most Texas legislators. These Board members typically give up three to four days for each SBOE meeting and attend countless state and local functions – all on their own time. This is not to mention the hours they spend poring over long documents and reports, answering constituents’ questions, and being accessible by phone, fax, and e-mail 24/7. (They received over 6,000 e-mails just on the Social Studies standards alone.)
THE HARD WORK OF EIGHT SBOE LEADERS
While Thomas was being wined and dined in the vaulted halls of the Gates’ empire and making a fortune as a well-heeled lobbyist, eight of the Texas State Board of Education members in particular were leading the efforts for 1 ½ years to adopt new Social Studies standards for the state of Texas.
The Board held numerous public hearings that lasted into the wee hours with hundreds of people testifying. The eight SBOE leaders slaved over revision after revision, amendment after amendment, word after word, list after list to make sure that the final version (passed in May 2010) is the most fact-based and patriotic Social Studies standards (TEKS) in the United States today.
(The SBOE had gone through a similar, grueling process to adopt new English / Language Arts / Reading standards in May 2008 and new Science standards in March 2009. New Math standards are presently in the pipeline.)
Through thick and thin, the eight SBOE leaders battled the liberal news media, national and state teachers’ organizations and unions, and multicultural mouthpieces (e.g., LULAC, NAACP).
These eight SBOE members made sure that our Texas students K – 12 receive a balanced view based upon unbiased facts about America’s exceptionalism, our Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the history of Texas, and the history of countries around the world.
CONTRASTING LIFESTYLES – RATLIFF VS. SBOE LEADERS
While Thomas Ratliff was off doing whatever lucrative millionaire lobbyists do, the SBOE members were hard at work not only serving our state as unpaid volunteers but also trying to manage their own family responsibilities:
- Don McLeroy was working full time as a family dentist, serving as a lay leader in his church, and teaching a fourth-grade Sunday school class;
- Terri Leo was struggling to make ends meet as a public school educator working with disabled children;
- Cynthia Dunbar was responsible for her children and also teaching a course on Constitutional law long distance;
- Barbara Cargill was taking care of three sons and conducting science camps for eager children;
- Ken Mercer was working full-time to provide a living for his family while being involved in protecting our country as a member of the Governor’s Homeland Security Infrastructure Counsel;
- David Bradley was carefully monitoring the Permanent School Fund so that our Texas school children would have money from the state to pay for their textbooks;
- Pat Hardy was working as a counselor in the public schools;
- Gail Lowe was helping her husband to publish their small-town newspaper.
Five “minority” members of the SBOE voted against the Social Studies standards in 2010 — all Democrats. These people were Mary Helen Berlanga, Lawrence Allen, Rene Nunez, Rick Agosto, and Mavis Knight.
THE BACKSTORY ON SBOE REDISTRICTING MAPS
The purpose of this article is to make sure that the public understands the backstory on Thomas Ratliff in spite of what the liberal news media reports.
My purpose is also to alert the public to the new SBOE 2012 redistricting map that passed out of the House Redistricting Committee late in the afternoon on 4.2.11. (You may look up the plan for yourself at http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us/ and choose “base plan” and then CSHB 600.)
Coincidentally enough, the 4.2.11 House Redistricting Committee meeting was held in the Supreme Court Building where there is no videostreaming available to document the proceedings.
SBOE Redistricting Map CSHB 600, most likely heavily influenced by Thomas Ratliff’s input, will make it hard-to-impossible for conservatives to be elected to the SBOE in 2012 when every seat will be up for grabs.
The SBOE redistricting map was sent to the Senate Redistricting Committee late 4.2.11 where hopefully the members will realize how unfair the map is and will work to fix its obvious problems.
If the Senate makes any changes to CSHB 600, then the SBOE redistricting map will be sent back to the House where a conference committee will decide on the final version. Members of that conference committee will be appointed by Speaker Joe Straus.
PUBLIC, DO YOU CARE?
If you care about the future of our public school children and want to make sure that conservative, back-to-the-basics SBOE members continue to be elected in 2012, please contact your Texas Legislators and express your views.
If you do not choose to get involved, then people such as Thomas Ratliff will continue to hold sway over the Texas legislators with whom he has established lobbying relationships through the years.
Please read the new Social Studies standards for yourself:
(Note: To read the new Social Studies TEKS, be sure to read those that are labeled “Beginning with school year 2011-2012.”)
Here are three links to Q&A interviews with Texas State Board of Education members after the new Social Studies standards were passed and a link to the article I wrote as I journaled the final proceedings:
ARTICLES BY DONNA GARNER ABOUT THOMAS RATLIFF
3.25.11 – “Who’s Behind This Mounting Pressure?” http://americansforprosperity.org/032011-who-behind-attacks-sboe#ixzz1HKrdHyQL
3.15.11 — “Thomas Ratliff’s False Sense of Security” by Donna Garner
2.17.11: “Ratliff: Attempting to Hoodwink the Public”
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