Politics & Policy

Defending Cruz

Former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz
The latest attacks on the former Texas solicitor general are laughable.

The Texas Conservatives Fund, a super PAC supporting Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the state’s Republican Senate primary, is attacking his main rival, former state solicitor general Ted Cruz. In a television ad airing throughout the Lone Star State, the fund derides Cruz’s reputation as a conservative. “Ted Cruz, a conservative?” the narrator asks. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

But it’s the ad’s charges that are laughable.

First, the ad alleges: “You already know Ted Cruz was the lawyer for a Chinese company that stole American innovation and American jobs.” Cruz’s campaign refuted this claim a while ago. Yes, Cruz’s law firm, Morgan Lewis, is representing Shandong Linglong Rubber Co., a Chinese tire company, in a dispute with Tire Engineering & Distribution and its owner, Jordan Fishman. The companies are jostling over Fishman’s designs for mining-vehicle tires, which Fishman claims his former business partner stole and gave to Linglong in 2005.

But Cruz was part of a team of lawyers. “Ted had nothing whatsoever to do with the trial,” his campaign notes on a webpage devoted to debunking the attacks. “Ted helped edit the appellate briefs. Ted did not even argue the appeal.” And the lawsuit’s effect on American jobs is dubious. Fishman is an American citizen, but as the Cruz campaign notes, “all of Fishman’s mining tires are manufactured in China. He is partners with a Chinese company, GTC, which he stated under oath manufactures all of his tires. His company, he stated, does no manufacturing whatsoever.”

Second, the ad asks: “But did you know [Cruz’s] law firm contributed over $200,000 to elect Barack Obama?” Yes, his coworkers did, but Cruz didn’t. Over the years, the candidate himself has donated to such Republicans as Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and John Cornyn. But he’s never donated to Obama.

Furthermore, the firm itself did not donate that money. The ad cites a compilation by Sunlight Foundation, which finds that in 2008 the firm’s employees donated $189,184 to the Democratic presidential candidate. So far this year, however, the firm’s employees have given Mitt Romney the most money, at $45,668. Obama, meanwhile, has received $12,700. (Cruz is the second-most-popular candidate at $34,650.) In other words, Cruz works with a lot of fat-wallet Democrats. That doesn’t make him one.

Finally, the ad claims: “Ted Cruz opposed lowering property taxes when he was Texas solicitor general.” It quotes him as saying that “lowering the [tax] cap is moving backwards,” but of course it omits the context: Cruz was giving legal advice, not policy advice.

In January 2006, Cruz was testifying before a state-senate panel on how the legislature could deal with a recent Texas Supreme Court ruling. In November 2005, the court had ruled that the state’s education-funding system was unconstitutional because it amounted to a state property tax, which the state constitution forbids. Under the system that was struck down, the state allowed each city to levy a tax of up to $1.50 for every $100 in property valuation within its limits. Because the state piled on so many education mandates, however, virtually every city in the state had to tax the maximum amount to meet them. This, the court said, was in effect a statewide tax.

In this context, then, Cruz was responding to a proposal lawmakers were considering to cut property taxes to compensate for the education levy. Cruz, the state solicitor general at the time, argued that the proposal wouldn’t comply with the court’s ruling. “The urge to lower taxes has the effect of constricting [school districts’] discretion and what the lawsuit is about is expanding it,” Cruz said.

To see how the super PAC is using Cruz’s quotation out of context, consider how the Austin American Statesman reported on Cruz’s testimony:

Lowering the cap won’t make the system comply with what the Texas Supreme Court says would be legal, Cruz said.

Until districts have discretion to set their own rates, the tax remains illegal, Cruz said.

Cruz said the commission needs to give school districts real options, either by allowing them to tax more or spend more or by having the state shoulder a greater school tax burden.

In all three cases, the ad’s charges are misleading at best and dishonest at worst. The fact that the super PAC is running it suggests that Dewhurst’s allies think Cruz is a real threat to the front-runner’s candidacy.

— Brian Bolduc is an editorial associate for National Review.

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