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Greg Abbott’s Weird, Empty Attack Site

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Abbott 2.0
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Abbott 2.0

Greg Abbott’s campaign has more money than God and an ample talent pool—but he may want to check on his IT department.

For more than a week, senior members of Abbott’s campaign staff have been trying to get the word out about a new attack website they’ve paid for—WhereIsWendyDavis.com. Attack websites—repositories of opposition research that campaigns will build separately from their own pages—are common. They’re usually sleek, well-designed, and well-stocked with mud ready to be slung.

The better ones are designed to “go viral,” with compelling content that your politically active aunts and uncles will feel compelled to forward to you. Supporters of John Cornyn made a great one in his campaign against Steve Stockman (though, alas, it now looks like it’s been taken down.) Lieutenant governor hopeful Dan Patrick has been lighting up the campaign with his attack sites, which are some of the best and strangest of the cycle so far.

It came to be Abbott’s turn. His communications director, Matt Hirsch, announced Abbott’s new site’s launch last week. Click on the link—and it’s an unfinished, grey, shapeless blob with virtually no information. That’s weird. A “Full site coming soon” tag is on the page’s top left. OK, so they jumped the gun. The site wasn’t finished, but they wanted to get it out there. That’s unusual, but Abbott was having a rough week, so it’s understandable.

Since Hirsh first tweeted about it, Abbott’s campaign and many of its senior staffers have been tweeting and making a lot of noise about the site. They really want people to see it. But it’s still unfinished. On Wednesday afternoon, the site was still mostly blank. “Full site coming soon,” the top left says. “Copyright 2013 Texans for Greg Abbott.” (The site was created in 2014, some two weeks ago.)

The look of the thing—monochromatic, heavy on text—may evoke the old-school Netscape internet, but the content isn’t great either (yet?). There’s an embedded Google Maps app with pins across the United States where Wendy Davis has held fundraisers, but it’s so small and cramped that you can’t tell what you’re looking at.

None of this would be too weird, except the Abbott campaign keeps pushing it. As I was writing this post, Abbott’s campaign tweeted it out again. Is this inside baseball? Kind of. Will it matter in November? No. But, man, it’s weird. It’s kind of a rookie move. Hell, even the site somebody made for hapless no-money Democratic Ag Commissioner hopeful Jim Hogan is in better shape.

Christopher Hooks joined the Observer in 2014. Previously, he was a freelance journalist in Austin, where he grew up. His work has appeared in Politico Magazine, Slate, and Texas Monthly, among others. He graduated from The New School in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in history.

  • Dean Davis

    why is it called “Where Is Wendy Davis?” It’s not clear what the site’s getting at with that title. This whole thing is baffling.

    • 1bimbo

      another excerpt from the ‘baffling’ website:

      “Sen. Davis has abused the public trust by profiting from taxpayer-funded contracts while she worked in the state Senate. Her actions as a legislator are typical of the Washington way, and her behavior erodes confidence in government. If Sen. Davis truly has nothing to hide – as she claims – then she should release the contracts of all Newby Davis clients.

      Sen. Davis Said Her Work In The Legislature Does Not Pose A Conflict Of Interest & That She Does Not “Have Anything To Hide.” SEN DAVIS: “‘I don’t have anything to hide in that regard, I’m an open book about it,’ Davis said in the summer. ‘It’s never, ever been anything that’s connected to the work I do in the Legislature and it wouldn’t connect to it going forward either.’” (Jay Root, “Davis Continuing Legal Work During Run For Governor,” Texas Tribune, 3/7/14)

      Sen. Davis Omitted A Public Sector Client (Tarrant County Hospital District) From The List She Released, Claiming Her Business Partner Represented Them. “But the list provided by Davis’ campaign, in response to a request from the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle, doesn’t include all the public-sector clients represented by the firm she shares with Brian Newby, Gov. Rick Perry’s former chief of staff. It includes only the clients she handles, not those Newby handles, according to her campaign.” (Peggy Fikac, “Davis Releases Public-Sector Law-Firm Clients,” Houston Chronicle, 3/7/14)

      However, Emails Show Sen. Davis Was The One Who Set Up Meetings With The Client. “Documents show email correspondence in 2010 between Davis and Trent Petty, chairman of the board of managers of JPS Health Network, which includes John Peter Smith Hospital. The correspondence mentions setting up a meeting among Davis, Petty and Newby.”(Peggy Fikac, “Davis Releases Public-Sector Law-Firm Clients,” Houston Chronicle, 3/7/14)

      Sen. Davis’ Firm, Newby Davis, Was Paid More Than $67,000 For Their Representation Of Tarrant County Hospital District. “According to documents obtained by the Express-News/Chronicle, another public-sector client of the firm – Tarrant County Hospital District, operating John Peter Smith Hospital – wrote checks to the Newby Davis firm topping $67,126 between July 2012 and this past February.” (Peggy Fikac, “Davis Releases Public-Sector Law-Firm Clients,” Houston Chronicle, 3/7/14)”

  • 1bimbo

    i found this excerpt on the ‘empty’ website TexOB is referring to:

    AUSTIN – Texans for Greg Abbott Communications Director Matt Hirsch today released the following statement regarding Sen. Davis’ hypocrisy on equal pay:

    “Senator Wendy Davis has now mastered the Texas two-step as she continues to launch attacks over equal pay while shielding her own record of defending gender discrimination. Senator Davis currently represents a public entity that was charged with gender pay discrimination under the Lilly Ledbetter Act, and while on the City Council, she approved giving over $200,000 to outside counsel to represent a former Fort Worth City employee in a discrimination lawsuit. This is the latest in a series of fuzzy facts presented by Senator Davis, and Texas voters deserve an explanation.”

    Davis Personally Represents A Public Entity That Was Charged With Gender Pay Discrimination Under The Lilly Ledbetter Act:

    Davis Personally Represented The Tarrant Regional Water District Through Her Legal Practice. “Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis on Friday released a list of public-sector clients she has represented since 2010, addressing a potential campaign issue in her race for governor. … Tarrant Regional Water District, for which her firm was hired by McCall Parkhurst as co-bond counsel.” (Peggy Fikac, “Davis Releases Public-Sector Law-Firm Clients,”San Antonio Express-News, 3/7/14)

    Davis’ Campaign And Her Firm Partner Both Told The Texas Tribune On March 7, 2014 That Davis Continues To Do Work For Her Public Sector Clients. “However, Davis’ partner, registered Texas lobbyist Brian Newby, said Davis had not halted her legal business, and that includes work done on behalf of their public sector clients. … Davis spokesman Bo Delp confirmed the ongoing work but said the gubernatorial candidate still planned to give it up.” (Jay Root, “Davis Continuing Legal Work During Run For Governor,” Texas Tribune, 3/7/14)

    In December 2010, The Fort Worth Court Of Appeals Ruled In Favor Of The Tarrant Regional Water District After A Female Employee Brought A Lilly Ledbetter Suit Alleging Gender Pay Discrimination. “The Fort Worth Court of Appeals ruled that the provisions of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 extending the charge filing deadlines for certain pay discrimination claims should not be automatically applied to pay discrimination claims arising under state law. In Tarrant Regional Water District v. Villanueva, Tamara Villanueva brought suit against the District for gender-based pay discrimination arising from her failure to receive a five percent pay increase she believed she was entitled. After being given only a four percent increase in pay, Villanueva hired an attorney who threatened the District with a gender-based pay lawsuit.” (Russell Cawyer, “Texas Court Holds Lilly Ledbetter Principles Inapplicable To Claims Arising Under State Law,” Texas Employment Law Update, 12/24/10)

    Texas Employment Law Update Headline: “Texas Court Holds Lilly Ledbetter Principles Inapplicable To Claims Arising Under State Law”(Texas Employment Law Update, 12/24/10)

    In 2001, Davis Approved Giving Over $200,000 To Outside Counsel To Represent A Former Fort Worth City Employee In A Discrimination Lawsuit:

    In January 2001 The Fort Worth City Council Approved Resolution 2700 By A “Consensus” Vote. “Res. 2700. … It is the consensus of the City Council that the recommendation be adopted.” (City Council Meeting Minutes – January 16, 2001, Fort Worth City Council, Accessed 3/15/14)

    Resolution 2700 Increased The Maximum Amount Fort Worth Could Pay Outside Counsel By $100,000 For A Lawsuit Against Don Magness, Former City Events Director, And The City Of Fort Worth. “There was presented Mayor and Council Communication No. G-13128 from the City Manager recommending that the City Council adopt Resolution No. 2700 increasing by $100,000 to $230,000 the maximum amount to be paid to Cantey & Hanger as outside counsel to represent former Public Events Director B. Don Magness in the case of Elizabeth ‘Jay’ Seymour, Pamela Denise Wright and Patricia Hale v. B. Don. Magness and the City of Fort Worth, Cause No. 352-174866-98.” (City Council Meeting Minutes – January 16, 2001, Fort Worth City Council, Accessed 3/15/14)

    (Source: Fort Worth City Council)

    NOTE: Up Until That Point The City Of Fort Worth Had Paid Outside Counsel $125,535.91 To Defend That Lawsuit. (Resolution 2700, Fort Worth City Council, Adopted 1/16/01)

    (Source: Fort Worth City Council)

    Magness Was Accused Of “Violating Laws Against Sexual Harassment And Retaliation.” “They had accused the city of Fort Worth and Mr. Magness of violating laws against sexual harassment and retaliation. The women leveled the charges against Mr. Magness, their supervisor, who was a 33-year employee of the city.” (Laurie Fox, “FW Council Settles Harassment Suit,”Dallas Morning News, 3/7/01)

    The Women Said Magness Had A “‘Legs And Lipstick’ Policy, Which Required Women In (His) Office To Wear Short Skirts And Colorful Lipstick, And Admonishing Employees Who Didn’t Abide By It.” “Mr. Magness, who also resigned as the longtime director of the Miss Texas Pageant in 1990 amid similar allegations, is accused of having a ‘legs and lipstick’ policy, which required women in the public events office to wear short skirts and colorful lipstick, and admonishing employees who didn’t abide by it.” (Laurie Fox, “FW Council Settles Harassment Suit,” Dallas Morning News, 3/7/01)

    Magness Was Also Accused Of “Making Sexually Suggestive Comments, Distributing Lewd Drawings And Routinely Using Innuendo.”“The women also accused him in their lawsuit of making sexually suggestive comments, distributing lewd drawings and routinely using innuendo that created a hostile work environment. The suit also alleged that the women were retaliated against for reporting their complaints to the city.” (Laurie Fox, “FW Council Settles Harassment Suit,” Dallas Morning News, 3/7/01)

    • not_Bridget

      tl;dr

      Abbott’s folks really have no clue on reaching the ‘netizens.