Dewhurst forms blind trust; review nears endBy JAY ROOT Associated Press Writer
© 2009 The Associated Press
April 30, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, subject of a probe into whether he has revealed enough information about his vast wealth, has put some of his holdings into a blind trust while finally disclosing his stake in a Houston investment company, records filed Thursday show.
The fresh disclosure filings come as prosecutors near completion of a months-long review of Dewhurst's previous personal financial disclosures. Dewhurst publicly revealed creation of the blind trust at the Texas Ethics Commission on Thursday afternoon, about an hour before the deadline for elected officials to turn in 2009 personal financial statements.
Travis County Attorney David Escamilla, a Democrat who investigates allegations of misdemeanor offenses by public officials, is still reviewing a formal complaint lodged against Dewhurst — about past disclosure filings — by Texans for Public Justice, a liberal watchdog group.
"My office received a complaint regarding the lieutenant governor's (disclosure) filings for 2007 and 2008," Escamilla said. "We have been reviewing that complaint and we hope to complete that review very shortly."
Dewhurst spokesman Rich Parsons said Dewhurst had carefully followed his lawyer's advice and he downplayed the significance of the new disclosures — which change the way Dewhurst has been describing his holdings for the past decade.
"The only change is the removal of one asset from the trust which was not required to be disclosed by any third party or state law," Parsons said.
Watchdog groups said they were glad Dewhurst finally acknowledged he needed to alter the way he discloses his wealth but said more information is still needed.
"I'm happy he's made a concession here, but it ain't good enough," said Trent Seibert of the non-partisan group Texas Watchdog. "To read the lieutenant governor's ethics forms, you practically need a Rosetta stone. You still don't know what's going on at the end of the day."
Dewhurst is said to be the richest man in Texas politics, but most of his wealth has been contained in a trust whose major assets are not disclosed. But it wasn't a blind trust — an investment tool designed to create a legal firewall between public service and personal business dealings. Former President Bush, for example, had placed most of his family's wealth in a blind trust.
Dewhurst previously told The Associated Press he had decided against forming a blind trust because he would take a big tax hit — a "huge penalty," as he put it in August. He reversed course Thursday and created the David Dewhurst Blind Trust, installing his brother Eugene and longtime business associate Martin Young as trustees.
Both signed a sworn affidavit saying they would not reveal detailed information about the blind trust to Dewhurst.
Dewhurst also revealed Thursday that he holds a major stake in Falcon Seaboard Diversified, Inc. and that one of the major assets of the company is an "airplane." The AP has previously reported that Dewhurst frequently uses the company's executive Gulfstream 3 jet — whose tail numbers include his initials, "DD."
The new disclosure papers reveal a few categories of Falcon Seaboard's assets, but with little detail, including "ranching and land investments," and "marketable investments." The longtime Republican leader has acknowledged losing money in the declining stock market, but he won't say how much.
As lieutenant governor, Dewhurst presides over the state Senate and wields tremendous influence over legislation. He is said to be considering a run for higher office, possibly the U.S. Senate, next year.
Craig McDonald, head of the watchdog group that filed the complaint against Dewhurst, said the disclosures Thursday were "welcome but frankly years overdue."
"He now has an obligation to fully disclose the assets he hid from the public that were in his non-blind, peekaboo trust," McDonald said.