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Peppard Project Tells How North Texas Oilmen Became Political Kingmakers

If you’re into history, and Texas history in particular, you’re apt to enjoy a new three-part, multi-media project by Alan Peppard of the Dallas Morning News. In the stories, titled “Islands of the Oil Kings,” Peppard tells how two remote islands off the coast of South Texas became “unlikely centers of power and influence” nearly eight decades ago, thanks to a couple of multimillionaire oilmen from Dallas-Fort Worth. In 1937, Peppard recalls, President Franklin Roosevelt and his 165-foot yacht, the USS Potomac, visited the San Jose and Matagorda islands, which were owned by Sid Richardson of Fort Worth and Dallas’ Clint Murchison Sr., respectively.

That first presidential visit represented nothing less than a “cosmic shuffle,” effectively putting Lyndon Johnson and Dwight Eisenhower en route to the White House, and fashioning Richardson and Murchison as “the first oilmen kingmakers,” Peppard writes. The DMN scribe also dug up some old, black-and-white home movies of FDR fishing and palling around with the Texans, then put together an online mini-documentary in three parts. Peppard says he spent a year working on the “Kings” project, traveling to the islands and dodging a “scary number of rattlesnakes, alligators, mosquitoes, and killer bees.” The first installment runs this Sunday, but it’s available online now. Part two will run Sunday Dec. 14, and part three the Sunday after that.

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Million-dollar Lawsuit Rips Winstead Advice in NCPA Sex Scandal

In recent months, the National Center for Policy Analysis has worked hard to put a sex scandal involving its founder behind it. The free-market think tank fired the founder, John C. Goodman, hired a new leader (tea party star Allen B. West), and scheduled several high-profile speakers for its events. Now, however, the Dallas-based NCPA has filed a lawsuit against a prominent law firm and the firm’s chairman emeritus that revisits the sex scandal in detail. Among other things, the suit asserts that l’affaire Goodman caused the nonprofit organization to lose at least $2 million in fundraising—and nearly put it out of business.

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Luxury Real Estate Experts Had a Lot On Their Minds This Morning

For example: Toyota execs don’t mind lengthy commutes here because they’re coming from California and New York, where the commutes make ours look short by comparison. Echo boomer and baby boomer luxury buyers aren’t nearly as unlike as you might think. There’s an evolution in upper-end home style occurring, with members of the “HGTV Generation” eschewing turrets and columns for a “clean-line aesthetic.” And, sales of new homes in DFW priced at $400K or more are up a whopping 56 percent, year over year. Those were just a few of the nuggets dropped by luxury market experts at this morning’s Residential Real Estate Breakfast Briefing, hosted by D CEO and D Real Estate Daily at the Warwick Melrose Hotel. While more details will follow on D Real Estate Daily, click here now to check out who showed up.

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Think Tank Names Outspoken Conservative Allen West As CEO

Less than six months after losing its founder over a sex scandal, the National Center for Policy Analysis has named Allen B. West, a conservative icon and former Florida congressman, as its CEO. The blunt-talking retired Army officer was elected to the House with the Tea Party wave of 2010, the first African-American Republican congressman from Florida since Reconstruction.

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Tower at UT Southwestern Medical Center To Be Named After Kern Wildenthal

You might call it yet another attempt to atone for past injustices. Today, word comes that Regents of The University of Texas System voted unanimously to name a major research tower at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas after Dr. Kern Wildenthal, the UTSW president from 1986-2008. Wildenthal, you might recall, was dragged by his heels through the mud in a series of Dallas Morning News stories about his expense accounting. Thursday’s action involving the new C. Kern Wildenthal Research Building on the north campus, the Regents said, was taken to recognize Wildenthal’s “extraordinary accomplishments” as both dean of the medical school and president of UT Southwestern. Last year, the Regents also appointed Wildenthal to the honorific title of President Emeritus of the institution. Now, cue the anonymous commenters sure to enjoy vilifying the guy one more time …

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At Think Tank With ‘Magnificent Future,’ Ron Paul Calls for More Liberty, Smaller Government

It lost its founder, and it board of directors has been downsized dramatically under the new interim management. But the 31-year-old National Center for Policy Analysis—which was recently rocked by a sex scandal—appears to be soldiering on in defense of free markets. Friday, the Dallas-based think tank drew 200 people to the Omni hotel here for a luncheon address by libertarian maverick Ron Paul. The three-time presidential candidate was introduced by KSKY talk-show host Mark Davis, who failed to mention the group’s recent troubles, of course, but did contend, pointedly, that “this place has a magnificent future.”

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Ron Paul: Aim for ‘Perfect Safety’ on Ebola Threatens Civil Liberties

Ron Paul, the former Texas congressman, doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with his son Rand, the U.S. senator from Kentucky and possible 2016 GOP presidential candidate. Take the subject of Ebola, for example. Rand isn’t so sure the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is playing straight about how you can catch the virus. But his libertarian/conservative father downplays the threat.

The senior Paul likens the current “hysteria” over the virus—including the attempted quarantining of healthcare workers just back from Africa—to other efforts to deprive Americans of their liberties. “There’s nothing wrong with being cautious. But my caution is, don’t overdo it, because it’s impossible to achieve what you want,” Paul said in Dallas today, a few minutes after addressing a luncheon meeting of the National Center for Policy Analysis. “You’d have to lock up everybody who has a cough.”

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Virgin America’s Straight Talk About Balance Sheets

It’s true that Virgin America has lost a total of $400 million since its founding. But it’s also true that the California-based airline made $10.1 million on $1.4 billion in operating revenue last year—and that revenue has been growing for the last five years at least. So when an incredibly downbeat AP story about the airline’s planned initial public offering appeared in the Dallas Morning News yesterday—the same day Virgin began flights out of Dallas Love Field—was Virgin America’s CEO upset? Not really, David Cush said last night at Virgin’s celebration party at the House of Blues: “I saw a lot of opinion in there, and I’ve seen lots of stories like that.” While the airline has moved in the past and is continuing to move to retool its balance sheet, Cush said, “The important thing is that when you’re a private-equity-owned firm, you don’t give a s*** about your balance sheet or your P&L” [profit and loss statement]. The key is keeping the investor-owners happy, the chief executive added. Virgin’s investors include a hedge fund called Cyrus Capital Partners, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, and Don Carty, former chairman and CEO of AMR Corp.

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The Selling of Al Jazeera America

You’d think that a fledgling cable TV news channel owned by the Qatar-royal family’s Al Jazeera Media Network would be a tough sell in a deep-red state like Texas. But there was Al Jazeera America anchorman John Seigenthaler at a luncheon meeting of the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth the other day, showing the audience a clip from The Colbert Report in which the host was jokingly calling Seigenthaler and his employer part of the al-Qaeda Network. “That looks terrifying,” Stephen Colbert said to the veteran newsman, referring to the Al Jazeera logo. “That is not only Arabic; it looks like Arabic on fire! … It means, ‘The bombing starts at midnight!’ ”

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Comer Cottrell Jr., R.I.P.

An editorial in today’s Dallas Morning News lauds the life and legacy of Comer Cottrell Jr., the pioneering African-American businessman who died last week at the age of 82. Cottrell, who founded Pro-Line, a black-focused hair-products company that he sold for $80 million in 2000, broke down a number of racial barriers in North Texas over the years. In this cover story/book excerpt in D CEO magazine (then called Dallas CEO) back in 2008, Cottrell told how he did it in a gritty, no-holds-barred style. The excerpt recalls Cottrell’s multiple encounters with discrimination when he moved in 1980 to Dallas from Los Angeles. The fascinating thing is that the prejudice came not just from Dallas’ white establishment but from the local African-American community, too.

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Starbucks Giving Up on Seattle’s Best Coffee Stores Here

Sixteen months after plunging into the North Texas market with 10 drive-through Seattle’s Best Coffee locations, Starbucks Corp. has decided to shutter most of the stores. Eight of the drive-throughs should be closed by next month, the company says, while two locations—in Rockwall and Fort Worth—were converted this summer to Starbucks outlets.

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How an Office Romance Went Off the Rails and Brought Down the NCPA’s John Goodman

Back in June, when the National Center for Policy Analysis fired its CEO for alleged “sexual misconduct and breach of fiduciary duty,” the free-market think tank had more than a dozen directors on its board. Chief executive John C. Goodman denied the charges at the time, you might recall, and said his dismissal was based on trivialities. Today the NCPA board is down to just five directors—and insiders say the Dallas nonprofit is struggling to survive.

So, what happened to bring all this about? The apparent implosion has come as the result of an office romance between Goodman and a staffer that went way off the rails, leading to an unusual “job promotion” that backfired badly:

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Will CPRIT Be Perry’s Achilles Heel?

Disclosure upfront: Despite thinking Zac’s series on Gov. Rick Perry is hilarious, I sort of like Perry, not least for his ability to make “enlightened” types see red. That said, I can’t help thinking that the governor’s defenders in the Travis County dust-up—including David Axelrod and Alan Dershowitz—are underestimating one aspect of the case.

That is, the implication that Perry vetoed the public integrity unit funds because the unit was investigating funny business at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, one of Perry’s “signature accomplishments.”

That might be seen as a stretch—if the governor didn’t have a history of bigfooting in this manner. Remember how he delayed investigation of the Willingham arson case by replacing several members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission just before a key presentation? Just seems like the CPRIT angle might strike Jane and Joe Six-Pack as a little more troubling than Perry’s defenders are letting on.

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NCPA Names An Interim Leader; Will Continue to ‘Collaborate’ with Ousted President and CEO

The board canned the founding president, John C. Goodman, for alleged sexual misconduct and breach of fiduciary duty. The ousted chieftan struck back in the media, denying the charges and calling the people on the board “scared” and amateurish. Meantime, the National Center for Policy Analysis has been trying to carry on in a business-as-usual manner, issuing a flurry of announcements about their experts doing this or that and appearing here and there. Today the right-leaning Dallas-based think tank had yet another announcement, naming former bank CEO and business strategist Dennis McCuistion its interim president and CEO.

In an interview, McCuistion said he expects to fill the posts anywhere from six months to a year—or until a permanent replacement for Goodman can be found. He also said he’ll take a leave of absence from his job at UT-Dallas, where he’s been serving as executive director of the Institute for Excellence in Corporate Governance. Meantime, McCuistion added, the NCPA will continue to collaborate with Goodman on certain ongoing projects, just as it would with any other expert. One example: the Healthcare Contract with America initiative, which Goodman, the so-called father of Health Savings Accounts, helped shape. So, there’s no problem in an organization continuing to work with someone who was judged unfit for serious reasons to run the organization? No, McCuistion replied in a nutshell.

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