Revealing briefs

SAN ANTONIO — Mikal Watts, the San Antonio trial lawyer vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate against Rick Noriega, departed the race abruptly on Tuesday citing family reasons. The announcement came days after a less-than-stellar showing in third-quarter fund-raising and media accounts that tied him to Mario Celis, a Corpus Christi man under investigation for practicing law without a license.

FORT WORTH — In the only state race on the November 6 ballot, former State Representative Anna Mowery, a Fort Worth Republican, has endorsed former state representative Bob Leonard as her potential replacement in the District 97 race. The seat was left vacant by Mowery’s early retirement. Seven candidates — six Republicans and one Democrat — are currently vying for the post. A runoff election is likely.

AUSTIN — Two of the three newly appointed regents of the University of Texas System combined to donate more than half-a-million dollars to Texas Governor Rick Perry prior to their appointments, the Daily Texan, the student newspaper of UT Austin, reported Tuesday. Paul Foster, president and CEO of Western Refining has given $281,239 to Perry’s campaign since 2001, with more than $144,000 of that coming in 2006 alone. James Dannenbaum of Dannenbaum Engineering donated more than $247,000 to Perry since 2000. A third regents appointee, Printice Gary, has made no donations to the Gov.

SAN ANTONIO — Anti-toll-road advocates are in court again this week, having filed a lawsuit on Monday in federal court in San Antonio over the US 281 toll plan. The anti-toll-roaders, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, headed by Terri Hall, desire to remove non-elected officials from the board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization and want to bar District 2 City Councilwoman Sheila McNeil from stopping some discussions on toll issues.

AUSTIN — A new report shows that Texas continues to remain above the national average in terms of tuition and fee costs at public four-year institutions of higher education. The state’s four-year colleges charge an average of $6,437, compared to $6,185 nationally, according to the College Board’s annual survey of college costs, representing an eight-percent increase over last year. The steadily increasing prices are a result of the Texas Legislature’s action to deregulate college tuition during its 2003 session in an effort to ease the budget crunch facing the state and higher education.

AUSTIN — A Wall Street Journal story Tuesday revealed the extremes to which the Wal-Mart corporation went in sheltering itself from taxes. Specifically, the story reported that Wal-Mart used accounting firm Ernst & Young in 2001 to help shelter the company from taxes by exploiting a loophole in Texas’s corporate franchise tax laws, which allowed limited partners from outside Texas to be exempt from the tax. The Texas Legislature closed that loophole this year.

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