Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jose Cuevas, restaurateur and subject of controversy...

The Midland Reporter Telegram... home town of TABC chairman Jose Cuevas and owner of Jumburrito... has a run down of the situation that Kay's peeps were so up in arms about late last week (link). Excerpt follows...
JumBurrito owner Jose Cuevas said Thursday he doesn’t think his serving as the chairman of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission while signing a letter in support of a Gov. Rick Perry fundraiser is a conflict of interest.

The issue was raised after Cuevas signed his name, along with three others, to an endorsement letter for Perry that also invited the more than 200 restaurateurs who received the e-mailed letter to an upcoming fundraiser.

Some of the restaurant owners who were sent the letter are regulated by the TABC that Cuevas chairs, though the letter did not state Cuevas’ position with the TABC.

“I know all these guys. It’s who I am — I’m a restaurateur and all I’m doing is signing my name with other restaurateurs saying please join us,” Cuevas said. “I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Cuevas, who was appointed to the TABC commission by Perry in 2004, also pointed out the letter was not on his personal letterhead, but simply something he agreed with and signed along with others.

He said there was similar restaurant industry-headed fundraiser held for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in Houston recently and there hasn’t yet been one for Perry, so this Nov. 10 fundraiser was planned.

Fifteen other restaurateurs — including two additional Midlanders — were listed in the letters as Perry supporters.

Still, according to a Dallas Morning News Article published Thursday, several critics take issue with someone with a position like Cuevas’ soliciting political donations. The letter asks for $1,000 to $5,000 donations if attending the fundraiser.

Lobbyists and others were quoted by the Dallas Morning News saying the situation is clearly a conflict of interest as some of the restaurant owners who received the letter depend on Cuevas’ actions as part of the TABC to stay in operation.

Others were quoted saying Cuevas’ actions raised red flags and that it’s definitely out of the ordinary for a regulator like Cuevas to send something like this to the people he regulates.

Perry said Thursday in San Antonio that Cuevas has been a supporter for 12 to 15 years and that he doesn’t “have a problem in the world” with his appointee soliciting restaurants for donations.

Speaking to the San Antonio Board of Realtors, Perry said he imagined there were also members of the Texas Real Estate Commission soliciting campaign contributions for him “for no other reason than they think I’m the best person for the job.”

According to the Dallas Morning News, Perry in his 1990 campaign called for an investigation of his opponent Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower after one of Hightower’s grain and seed regulators solicited for campaign contributions from individuals he was charged with regulating.

In reference to the situation, Perry’s campaign manager at the time said that “this kind of political strong-arming is reprehensible,” according to the Dallas Morning News.

Cuevas said he viewed the letter as similar to the numerous others he’s signed over the years for candidates like Sen. John McCain and Roger Williams.

“I don’t think it intimidates anybody,” he said, of his post as the TABC chair. “It shouldn’t intimidate anybody.”

Thus far, Cuevas said, he’s received only positive feedback from the letter with concerns coming strictly from individuals with the media.

Perry is up against Hutchison for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Her campaign called the solicitation a “shakedown” for cash.
Don't they usually post the actual letters in these situations? I can't really comment as accurately as I could if the press included the actual letter... my bet is that it is a pretty generic letter from restaurant owners to other restaurant owners... something like, "we believe in Rick's ability to keep the Texas economy going strong, so join us to help our state stay relatively strong..." Stuff like that.

As someone who has been around the Austin block a few times Jose Cuevas raises money on behalf of candidates from his fellow restaurant owners all the time and has for many years... Jose is very well respected in the lobbying world and has a great reputation amongst the Texas Restaurant Association peeps. Accusing Jose of being some sort of mafia shakedown artist is laughable... his personality is more like your favorite joke telling uncle... not intimidating at all.

I have never even heard a hint of this "shakedown" charge until now. I would just guess that the Texas Restaurant Association who all love and respect Jose Cuevas won't endorse Kay at this point after these charges from her camp... maybe they already knew that and were not worried about burning this bridge...

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Hey now, campaign characters. Be nice. I know a lot of you on both sides, so I don't want any overly foul language, personal attacks on anyone other than the candidates themselves, or other party fouls. I will moderate the heck out of you if you start breaking the bounds of civility.