Wendy Davis Profits from Legal Work that Increased Public Debt (Update: Video Added)
The San Antonio Express-News reports that despite Democrat governor candidate Wendy Davis' promise to stop her private legal work as she runs for the state's highest office, she has continued. And the work that she performs pays her handsomely while it increases taxpayer debt.
SAN ANTONIO — As state Sen. Wendy Davis prepared to launch her campaign for governor last fall, her law firm was busy providing legal advice on a $109 million bond issue for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
It marked one of about 20 bond deals for which Newby Davis PLLC has served as co-bond counsel on for the airport since Davis, a Democrat, and partner Brian Newby — Republican Gov. Rick Perry's former chief of staff — started their firm in Fort Worth in 2010.
Only last month, Davis' firm worked on two deals that were brought to market: a $201.5 million bond issue for the airport and a nearly $319 million bond sale for the Tarrant Regional Water District.
The bond issues Newby Davis worked on for the water district had this twist: the agency's financial director is Sandra “Sandy” Newby, Brian Newby's wife.
In total, the various transactions for which Newby Davis served as co-bond counsel on have represented at least $6.3 billion in new securities and refinancings.
Excluding underwriting fees, the deals generated more than $23 million in compensation for the various financial advisers, lawyers and other players who participated in the bond sales — with the biggest cut usually going to the financial advisers.
Davis has not said how much she personally made from these deals.
The Harvard-educated lawyer is using affirmative action laws to gain advantage in applying for these deals. The entities seeking counsel on these bond proposals prioritizing hiring minority-owned businesses. Far from being disadvantaged, Davis and Newby are among the most politically connected people in Texas. But:
Newby Davis qualifies as a minority-and woman-owned business because it's controlled by an African-American and a woman.
There is no law against sitting legislators engaging in work that increases public debt. Yet.
[Attorney General Greg] Abbott, meanwhile, has proposed excluding lawmakers from serving as bond counsel for any public entity.
The work creates “ethically problematic situations” for legislators, who “find themselves with a personal incentive to increase local debt,” Abbott's campaign website states. Local debt in Texas is among the highest on a per-person basis among larger states, Abbott contends.
All tolled, Davis' bond work adds up to about $6.3 billion in new debt for taxpayers. The lawyer fees associated with these deals may have made Wendy Davis very wealthy. But she reports less than $300,000 in income each of the past few years, and barely any charitable giving.
In 2010 she reported giving $2,700. She gave $515 in 2011 and $950 in 2012, the tax returns show.
Abbott's campaign Communications Director Matt Hirsh released a statement about Davis' lucrative debt deals.
“This is the latest example of Sen. Wendy Davis’ questionable ethics and lack of transparency. We already know that she continues to work for public clients despite promising to stop months ago, and that she refuses to release her full client list despite calls from Texas voters and editorial boards to do so. Sen. Davis should stop hiding and say how much she made from taxpayer-funded contracts while profiting off state debt – Texas voters deserve to know."
Update: In the interests of transparency, Wendy Davis won't answer any questions about her clients.