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Texas Matters: General Land Office discriminates, and Sidney Powell faces discipline

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Joey Palacios
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Texas Public Radio

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August 2017. The Category 4 tropical cyclone caused more than 100 deaths and inflicted an estimated $125 billion in property damage.

Texas received billions from the federal government for storm mitigation. Houston and Harris County officials applied for more than $1.3 billion of that money, but the Texas General Land Office responded saying they would receive nothing.

Instead, about $1 billion of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development funds that the GLO managed was directed to other local governments in 46 Southeast Texas counties. Areas that tend to vote Republican and are majority white.

After receiving a complaint filed last year by two Houston area advocacy groups, the Biden administration investigated the GLO’s distribution of the Harvey funds and found that the agency led by Land Commissioner George P. Bush “discriminated on the basis of race and national origin through the use of scoring criteria that substantially disadvantaged Black and Hispanic residents.”

In a 13-page finding, HUD said the process that resulted in the exclusion of Houston and Harris County “caused there to be disproportionately less funding available to benefit minority residents than was available to benefit white residents.”

One of the complaints was filed by Texas Housers, a Texas low-income housing information service. David Wheaton is the advocacy director at Texas Housers.

Sidney Powell Update

Since the 2020 presidential election that Donald Trump lost, Texas attorney Sidney Powell has become a frequent guest on right wing media. She led the charge in spreading the lie that the election was rigged.

Everything Powell said was a lie and her lawsuits have amounted to nothing except to spread misinformation and used as a pretense to pass voter suppression laws in the name of election security.

Now the Texas Commission for Law Discipline just sued Powell in the District Court of Dallas County Texas, seeking discovery pursuant to complaints filed by multiple lawyers and Michigan’s governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. They are claiming Powell should be disciplined for “professional misconduct” for filing frivolous lawsuits that violated Federal Rule of Civil Procedure.

This week a judge did throw out a lawsuit from Smartmatic against Powell over jurisdictional grounds. Smartmatic has responded saying they will continue to pursue its legal claims against Powell.

But there is more to Sidney Powell than her activism to overturn the 2020 election with far fetched conspiracy theories.
A nonprofit founded by Powell has raised over $15 million and is using the funds to pay the full legal expenses of some defendants in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Ken Bensinger is covering the story for BuzzFeed News.

Ukraine at Cliburn

The Cliburn international piano competition takes pride in its focus on high-quality, musical performance. But the war in Ukraine invaded the concert hall this week. KERA's Jerome Weeks reports that for some musicians, that's adding a layer of tension that is difficult to imagine.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi