The PJ Tatler

New Ethics Questions Rise in Wendy Davis' Political/Legal Career

As a state senator, Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) has promised to never use her political office for personal gain. But a new Dallas Morning News story provides evidence that Davis has broken that promise, and used her career in the Texas Senate to enrich herself. Davis is the Texas Democratic Party’s nominee for governor.

The story details the complex relationship that Davis has with the North Texas Tollway Authority, both in her career in the senate and as a partner in the Newby Davis law firm. That firm, which she formed with Bryan Newby, has come up previously in Davis’ work on public debt. Davis and Newby, who is Gov. Rick Perry’s former chief counsel, formed their partnership as a minority-owned business. Such businesses tend to receive favorable treatment in government contracting, in the name of assisting underserved populations. Both Newby and Davis are far from underserved, by any reasonable definition.

The tollway story looks like straightforward trading support and votes for contracts that enrich Davis personally. The DMN has published a timeline to explain how Davis worked legislation to her personal favor.

Nov. 5, 2008: Wendy Davis is elected to the Texas Senate.

April 6, 2009: Davis opposes a North Texas Tollway Authority-backed bill to give local tollway authorities right of first refusal to build toll projects.

Feb. 25, 2010: Davis’ Senate office asks the Texas Department of Transportation for information about qualifications for certification of minority-owned businesses for highway contracts.

March 2, 2010: Fort Worth-based Cantey Hanger law firm announces it has hired Davis.

March 22, 2010: Davis and Bryan Newby, a former chief of staff to Gov. Rick Perry, form a minority-owned law firm, Newby Davis.

June 10, 2010: Davis writes to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood seeking federal funding for the Chisholm Trail Parkway project. The law firm handling the project is Cantey Hanger.

Feb. 1, 2011: Sen. Jane Nelson introduces a bill to cap fees charged to drivers with unpaid tolls.

March 17, 2011: NTTA’s legal services committee approves hiring Newby Davis to do land-condemnation work for the Chisholm Trail Parkway project.

March 23, 2011: Davis drops her version of a fee-cap bill and signs onto Nelson’s bill, which has NTTA support. The bill sets the fees regimen that would be the starting point that law firms subsequently hired by NTTA would use to seek settlements.

March 29, 2011: The Senate approves a measure supported by NTTA to give local tollway authorities right of first refusal to build toll projects. Davis votes for it, saying it’s better than the version she opposed in 2009.

May 27, 2011: Newby Davis begins billing NTTA for work on the Chisholm Trail project. In the Senate, Davis votes for Nelson’s fee-cap collection bill, which goes to the governor, who later signs it.

Aug. 15, 2012: NTTA chooses Newby Davis as one of six litigation firms to collect fees and delinquent tolls.

Aug. 30, 2012: Davis subcontracts with a Chicago collection agency to handle delinquent toll and fee settlements.

The author of the story is veteran Texas political reporter Wayne Slater. He broke the story of Davis embellishing her own origins story in January.