Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Senator Ogden's daughter graduates college, goes to work as lobbyist for road builders' trade group

Bius charges conflict, Ogden fires back


By Mike Ward
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2010

Texas Senate wannabe Ben Bius charged today that veteran Sen. Steve Ogden has been hiding “a glaring conflict of interest” for years: That Ogden’s daughter, Kristen, is a lobbyist for a road-builders’ trade group.

Bius, a Huntsville Republican who is challenging Ogden’s reelection bid in the March 2 GOP primary, said Ogden should have recused himself from voting since 2003 on issues involving the Texas Department of Transportation — including the Trans-Texas Corridor, Comprehensive Development Agreements among other things.

“What were these highway contractors trying to buy from Steve Ogden?” Bius said in a statement. “This is exactly the kind of conflict of interest that has caused the people to lose trust in their elected leaders. Sen. Ogden owes the people of Texas an explanation.”

No problem with that, Ogden quickly shot back:

My daughter was in college when (the Legislature) passed the Trans-Texas Corridor bill [in 2003], and had nothing to do with it. She doesn’t lobby me, and we try to keep a firewall between what she does and anything I do.

We have always filed the necessary reports with the Ethics Commission.”

Ogden’s daughter is a registered lobbyist for the Associated General Contractors, which Ogden said opposed both the TTC and the CDAs — which Ogden has been highly critical of in recent years.

Ogden-R-Bryan, has represented Senate District 5 since 1997.

“The guy (Bius) is untruthful. The accusation has no accuracy to it,” Ogden said, insisting he thinks it’s wrong to bring family into a political race. “He’s not even going to carry his home county.”

Nonetheless, Bius continued to insist the issue was a fair one to bring up.

“(Ogden) should have recused himself from voting on those issues while his daughter was lobbying for AGC would have been the most honorable and ethical thing to do,” he said. “As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he certainly has a lot to do with funding that affects the people who build roads.”

Today’s fireworks highlight growing tensions in the GOP primary, where Ogden is running on his record and long years of service, and Bius is campaigning that Ogden has strayed far from the district’s conservative roots.

The district stretches roughly from Huntsville to Williamson County.

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