Well, the race for District 60 state representative between Cullen Crisp and incumbent Jim Keffer certainly took on a different flair this week with a release from Empower Texans written by Austin attorney Tony McDonald.
First, a clarification. In last week's editorial we reported that there was an unconfirmed report that Crisp is or was a personal injury attorney. Apparently, not true at all. He's a businessman.
Which brings up another point - The Plot to Drain Possum Kingdom and Lake Granbury written by McDonald and published and distributed by Empower Texans.
There is enough truth to make it sound feasible, and enough fiction weaved in to make it sound like a powerful indictment of Keffer, the Brazos River Authority and electric suppliers.
So a few points regarding allegations in the document.
Allegation: Around that same time (2007), the BRA started working with State Rep. Jim Keffer, who represents Hood and Palo Pinto counties, to find a way to sell off the "buffer zone" around Possum Kingdom Lake. So long as the BRA continued to operate the power plant at Morris Sheppard, then the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would require the Authority to maintain ownership of the land. But if the BRA could find a way for FERC to release the land, then it could be sold for tens of millions of dollars.
Fact: Leaseholders at Possum Kingdom Lake wanted to own their property. It was members of the Possum Kingdom Lake Association who pressed for the sale of the property. Keffer did work with BRA officials to determine a way for this to happen, not conspire with BRA to come up with a way to divest. This buffer zone was not sold, it is still the property of BRA and is currently maintained in accordance with the mandate of FERC. BRA still holds the license issued by FERC and will continue to hold it until the license is surrendered to FERC. Also, FERC did not require BRA to own any land other than that which FERC required for the license operation.
Allegation: The BRA immediately acted on the authority granted them by Keffer in HB 3031. In July of 2009, they sold all of the "buffer zone" land to Mike Patterson of Arlington for $52 million. This price, despite the fact that a study by the Staubach Company in 2006 determined that the value of the land was closer to $150 Million.
Fact: Patterson only purchased leaseholds outside the FERC zone, which, as stated above, is still in place. The reference to the Staubach report was a report given to BRA which outlined a sale or lease option that Staubach officials suggested BRA follow. Under that presentation, the reports suggested BRA base lease rates on "fair market value" they determined to be $150- million to $200 million. That followed a significant rise in land values since 2002. The "assessed value" BRA used to determine lease rates was at about $95 million. Staubach's recommendation was to raise lease rates to 6 percent of the fair market value, a move BRA had already started. The sale to Patterson was based upon the assessed values. The BRA board had the option to sell leases individually, but opted for the third-party sale to reduce the amount of time and manpower needed for such a massive undertaking.
Allegation: Keffer's son, Chris Keffer, is a lobbyist in Austin who works with political consultant Bryan Eppstein. Together they represent another company that deals in municipal water projects, Inland Pipe Rehabilitation Inc. They also represent the Tarrant Regional Water District, another large water authority.
Fact: True, however, the implication is Chris Keffer conspired with his father to rig legislation that would benefit Keffer's company, EBAA Iron Sales in Eastland. Chris Keffer said he files with the Texas Ethics Commission,as does his father, showing for whom and with whom he lobbies - none of that lobbying is with his father. Chris Keffer said Inland Pipe Rehabilitation works on existing pipelines that need repair, no new pipelines, and the majority of work with TRWD is advertising.
Allegation: Energy Future Holdings benefitted from the plot in that they eliminated a competing power plant at Morris Sheppard and they secured a source of water to use for cooling purposes at the proposed Comanche Peak nuclear power plant units three and four.
Fact: First, this makes no sense. On the one hand, McDonald bemoans the closing of the generators at Morris Sheppard Dam, stating the loss of water flow hurt Lake Granbury, then alleges the power plant was closed so EFH could use water to cool the towers now that the generators are off line. We believe that regardless of the generator situation at Morris Sheppard Dam, water would be made available for additional towers at Comanche Peak, much to the chagrin of residents of the two lakes. After all, that facility, too, would come under federal regulation.
We cannot address the energy concerns but the list goes on and on with nothing but allegations and innuendo. Therefore, there is some doubt as to the validity and conclusions in the document.
Where are the facts? Where is the testimony? Where are the documents? Where is the proof that substantiates these allegations?
As any attorney knows, even in briefs and opinions, references are cited to substantiate the opinion. There are none here which means there are either none to be had or the attorney is not well versed in how to substantiate allegations. In a court of law, proof is required and there's none here. It's like opening arguments in a trial without the caveat "evidence will show."
Just as journalists should not assume they can be experts in law, it would seem the reverse is true of attorneys who believe they are investigative journalists - particularly when the organization for which they work endorses the incumbent they are attacking.
Apparently, the backers of Crisp believe they can win the election in Hood County - and maybe they can. Crisp hasn't bothered to show up at any of the candidate forums in Palo Pinto County. He's banking on Hood County and the heck with the rest of the district, or so it would seem.
Finally, McDonald's "Keffer Manifesto" calls into question Keffer's honesty, integrity, truthfulness and morals with no proof - and I find that most insulting to the man I have known for over a dozen years, who represents the district with integrity and honesty for the last 17 years or so - and has done so much for so many.
Those who think they can wait until November to pick their next state representative are in for a rude awakening. This primary will determine who it will be. Keffer needs our support now.