Green Party Scandal: Did the Texas Green Party Willfully Break the Law?

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Is the Texas Green Party willfully breaking the law?   According to a recent Lone Star Project release, the answer is yes.  

Records made available to the public make clear that Green Party leaders – particularly Executive Director kat swift and Party Co-Chair Christine Morshedi – knowingly conspired with Republican political operatives to use money from a secret donor funneled through a non-profit corporation to pay for the collection of ballot petition signatures. Green Party leaders have acknowledged publicly that they did not have the money or the organizational ability to collect the ballot signatures on their own (Source: Dallas Morning News, June 6, 2010).

Jason Embry, in his column from the Austin American-Statesman, "Third party politicking can be tricky" offers that the importance of the story extends beyond the race at the top of the ticket:

The group that helped the Greens, Take Initiative America, has a number of Republican ties. But the sexiest revelation has been that lobbyist Mike Toomey paid a University of Texas student to collect signatures for the Greens, the student says. That effort came up short.

Conventional wisdom says a Green Party candidate takes more votes away from a Democrat than a Republican, so Toomey's effort appears aimed at helping Gov. Rick Perry beat Democratic challenger Bill White. After all, Toomey is Perry's close ally and former chief of staff.

But Toomey's interest in Texas politics extends beyond the governor's race. He is a key player in helping Republicans win more seats in the Legislature, and as this whole matter moves forward, we may learn that his real target was the battle for the Texas House, which is now split between 77 Republicans and 73 Democrats.

 Any person who wants to support workers, families, teachers, doctors, open government,and fighting a failing status quo, is usually a friend and ally. In this case though, the Green Party appears to have entered into an illegal alliance with partisan Republicans who stand in opposition to the Green Party platform and their publicly stated issues.  The Lone Star Project did some research (as they are prone to do) and found the direct law the Green Party violated in the Texas Election Code.  

Laws Broken and Penalties  The Texas Election Code prohibits the spending of corporate money on anything except a very specific list of administrative expenses that includes only the following: “office space maintenance and repairs, telephone and Internet services, office equipment, utilities, general office and meeting supplies and the salaries for routine clerical, data entry and administrative assistance necessary for the proper administrative operation of the committee” (Source: Tex. Elec. Code §§ 253.100(a)(1) – (a)(6)).   The gathering of petition signatures and donation of completed petitions do not fall under this narrow list of allowable expenditures with corporate money. Therefore it is clear that the Green Party of Texas, its executive committee, Take Initiative America and other, yet to be discovered conspirators are criminally and civilly liable for their illegal petition scheme.   The Green Party of Texas leaders may face third degree felony charges and punishment of up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to a million dollars. (Source: Texas Penal Code )

 This is a particularly tough story to watch unfold. I worked with the Green Party State Coordinator, kat swift, when I was working in San Antonio on environmental and water issues. swift was a strong ally and friend on protecting the Edwards Aquifer and fighting Frank Corte and other Republicans from pushing for horrible legislation increasing impervious cover and allowing more upstream water distribution, effectively starving downstream interests of water. We simply could not have won those battles with out the help of the hundreds of people, like swift, who devoted their time and passion to these issues.  Sadly, it appears swift was the point person for the Green Party scheme to get ballot access with the direct assistance of the Republican Party.  

It appears that kat swift was the point person through which the Green Party ballot/Republican money scheme was conducted. Records show that swift encouraged using partisan Republican money to fund the ballot initiative. After first cautioning against using corporate funds, swift reversed her position and accepted the illegal corporate contribution. In sworn testimony, Garret Mize informed the Court that swift said that Republican money to fund a Green Party ballot petition effort “would be fine.” (Source: Mize Testimony, June 24, 2010)

 Not every member of the Green Party is interested in selling the souls and/or conscious for a short term win.   Roger Baker was the Green Party nominee for Travis County Clerk. Announced he is withdrawing from the race.  

Baker has admirably acted in a way consistent with Green Party stated ideals – particularly a passage from the Green Party platform stating the Party “intends to end corporate rule and create actual democracy” (Source: Green Party of Texas Platform).   Baker, unlike his state party leaders, has refused to participate in the GOP ballot scam. He wrote the following in an e-mail to his supporters: “I find it very difficult to explain and defend the Green Party ballot access problems on the state level, while trying to run on a platform of Texas Campaign finance reform at the same time” (Source: e-mail to Green Party and supporters, June 28, 2010).

 It is tough to watch a party demand people pay attention to them when they actively sell themselves off to the highest bidder. Ideology should not be for sell. Win ballot access and races by having a commitment to organize and a strong message to the electorate. Instead, the Texas Green Party simply sold out and there could be real and damaging legal consequences to helping Rick Perry and Mike Toomey.  All source material and more information can be found at the Lone Star Project.

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9 Comments

  1. Hypocrisy
    “It is tough to watch a party demand people pay attention to them when they actively sell themselves off to the highest bidder. Ideology should not be for sell.”

    And the Dems don't do that with the boatlaods of cash they take in from lobbyists and special interests?! Bunch of hypocrites.

    “real and damaging legal consequences”…you mean like alternative ideas, voices, opinions and candidates being offered to the electorate. Ie democracy. The Democrats and Republicans don't have a birthright to votes in Texas. In fact independent voters are a plurality in Texas, not the Dems and Reps.

    You fail to mention the universally recognized prohibitive ballot access laws of the state of Texas. Some of the worst in the nation. Are you going to tell me that the Dems have nothing to do with that?

    I appreciate your crocidile tears for the Green's leader kat swift though.  

    • Thanks
      I would consider kat a friend, so thanks for the petty attacks. I can honestly say, that I would never accept money or support from someone who does no share my values. This is a direct quid pro quo and not even you are denying it.

      The reality is, the Green Party broke the law. If that is not the case, show it but stop making arguments based on fallacies.

      Want to change the system? Me too. I want more sunshine on the process. I want to stop the revolving door for legislators like Todd Hunter. I want to increase access for anyone who wants to be involved in the process– candidates and voters alike.

      Rather than assuming you know me and what I stand for, argue your points and ask questions. This is a fair place for you to voice your very vocal opposition to ideas. This is a community and there are no barriers except the one you and the rest of the community create.

      The Green Party broke the law. As a former Green Party voter, this is the sort of thing that upsets me. Watching people sell their ideology like this to people like Rick Perry and Mike Toomey is disgusting. The Green Party broke the law and now people want to play shell games with the arguments.

  2. Kevinchavis on

    The best democracy money can buy

    Did the Green Party sell its soul to get on the ballot? I think not. You use the word “Republican” as any other derogatory term. Only partisans demonize others solely with party labels. An individual, who happens to be a Republican, helped another political party get on the ballot. What is the problem with getting on the ballot? It's not like the Democrats were swift-boated. Democrats are treating Texas voters like morons, assuming they can't differentiate between a Democrat and a Green.

    If America had our current ballot-access laws prior to 1890, when they began to be enacted, the Republican Party likely would have failed. Texas would still be a slave state.

    What Democrats are telling voters who disagree with the corporate ownership of our democracy is this: don't vote. And many who see no hope, do just that each election.

    Democrat and Republicans have long sold their souls to the highest bidder. Just to get on the ballot, other coalitions must attain hundreds of thousands of dollars for a petition drive before actual campaigning can begin. If Democrats are angry about this situation, they could work to eliminate these anti-democratic laws. But I doubt they or the Republicans want any competition of their campaign funding. What a sad state of democracy we have in our nation. I pray for a real democracy, where every person truly does have a say in our collective future.  

    • Really?

      Democrat and Republicans have long sold their souls to the highest bidder.

      It looks like you should start another party because you left the Green Party off your list.

      I join you in your prayers. That is why I work every single day to elect people who will stand up for voters rights, add sunshine to government, and refuse to draw unconstitutional legislative districts that disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters. Just to be clear, I am describing the Republican Party… who… by the way… paid a half million dollars to illegally coordinate with the Green Party.

      Seems like the only argument I am hearing is, we want people to adhere to the law except when it benefits the Green Party. That's disgusting to me and hypocritical.

      • Wrong questions

        Just to be clear, I don't pretend to be an expert of Texas Election Code, so I am not arguing the “legality” of this issue. I agree that no political party should be above the law.

        As you complained about disenfranchising voters, this can be done in completely legal ways. The gerrymandering of legislative districts is just as anti-democratic as ballot-access laws. Yet Democrats support both of these because it supports them where they have majority power, just not in Texas.

        And should it really take half a million dollars to get on the ballot?  Who has that kind of money lying around other than millionaires? Is that what defines Texas-style democracy?

        From what I understand of the situation, the Republican Party did not get the Green Party on the ballot. A member or members of that party did. If Democrats are scared of Greens on the ballot they should 1) adopt the Green Party platform (unlikely), 2) help get Libertarians/Consitution/Tea Parties on the ballot (also unlikely), or 3)Amend ballot-access laws to alleviate the half-million dollar burden for every third-political party in Texas. It would be great if Democrats would do any of these. In reality, Democrats hate others on the ballot which shows their true anti-democratic ideals.  

      • el_longhorn on

        Come on, Matt
        “It is tough to watch a party demand people pay attention to them when they actively sell themselves off to the highest bidder. Ideology should not be for sell.”

        You're too much of a veteran for this. All parties compromise their principles for money. All parties everywhere. The Greens would not have started chanting “Drill Baby Drill” just because the Republicans helped them get on the ballot. You know what is going on here.

        The Greens will never be a viable political party in Texas if they are not on the ballot. They need about 500,000 signatures to get on the ballot, which takes a lot of money. They tried to pull a fast one and got caught.

        I hate to break it to you, but if the Democrats could secretly and illegally funnel money to get the Tea Party on the ballot, they would.  

  3. Obama declining public financing was also selling his soul then?
    Remember when Barack Obama was all, I'm for public financing, but then declined public financing in the presidential campaign because he could raise more money bypassing that system?  It left him beholden to his donors — yes, many made small donations, but many also made larger donations of thousands of dollars.  That was hypocrisy but I would hardly call it selling his soul.  This is a similar issue.  

    Democrats who would malign the Green Party for being too morally “pure” on many issues now suddenly decide that in a matter of survival against draconian ballot access laws, the Greens have to be purer than pure.

    I am not at all convinced that what happened is “criminal.”  IT seems ambiguous. Seems like a matter for the courts to decide over a matter of months.

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