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.