Texas Supreme Court Leaves Green Party Candidates Vulnerable With Ruling

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“Rick Perry and the Republicans have tried to use the Green Party to shore up Perry’s sputtering campaign. When Texas voters find out the truth about this secret scheme, they will find career politician Rick Perry and his contributors at the bottom of it.” 

–Statement from TDP Chair Boyd Richie

Today, the Texas Supreme Court issued a stay in the Green Party ballot scam. The court ruled that the Green Party can certify its candidates, but the Texas Supreme Court did not rule as to the legality of the corporate money the Green Party used to collect the signatures necessary to get on the ballot. If the Court later rules the use of corporate money was illegal, the Green Party candidates could come straight back off the ballot. Today's ruling leaves Green Party candidates and Green Party leaders even more vulnerable, since they now have to certify their candidates without the legal cover of the Texas Supreme Court — and with the last court that has ruled saying they'd be breaking the law to go forward.

For a party that claims to be about fair elections and against corporate money, the Green Party sure doesn't seem to mind that they've made a deal with Rick Perry's devils on this one. I suspect they will certify their candidates, willfully accepting known corporate dollars and — whether they realize it or not, or even care — place themselves in further legal jeopardy.

Today's ruling ultimately ensures that Rick Perry's political scandal will continue. In coming days, there will be more discussion about how Republican operatives with close ties to Perry may have played a role in the case. Who knows — maybe Mike Toomey will even speak and come clean about the role he played. (One can dream, right?) Either way, the issue will be heard again in court — and the press — throughout July.

From the Statesman:

In response to the Democrats’ lawsuit, District Judge John Dietz last week issued an order blocking the Green Party from fielding candidates this November. A petition drive that appeared to qualify the Greens for the ballot was paid for with illegal corporate money, Dietz said.

Because today is the last day that the party can certify its candidates for November, the Greens’ lawyers quickly appealed the Dietz ruling to the Supreme Court. The court issued its stay this afternoon, asking for additional briefs from the parties so it can evaluate whether the gathering of petitions violated state law on how corporate money can be used in politics.

The group that paid for the gathering of the signatures, Take Initiative America, is an out-of-state nonprofit corporation with a number of ties to Republicans. It has not revealed its donors.

As Matt wrote yesterday in his post, “Green Party Scandal: Did the Texas Green Party Willfully Break the Law?”

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).

Update: Statement from TDP Chair Boyd Richie. The full statement is below the fold…

“It shouldn’t take a Supreme Court hearing to make the Republicans who organized and funded the Green Party ballot scheme come clean with Texas voters.

Previously on BOR:

Full TDP Statement (from an e-mail):

SUPREME COURT PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF RICK PERRY-GREEN PARTY BALLOT SCANDAL

Green Party Can Certify Candidates Pending Court Ruling, But Participants Should Come Clean With Texas Voters

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie issued the following statement regarding today’s Texas Supreme Court order that issued a stay in the Green Party ballot access case pending a hearing:

“Rick Perry and the Republicans have tried to use the Green Party to shore up Perry’s sputtering campaign. When Texas voters find out the truth about this secret scheme, they will find career politician Rick Perry and his contributors at the bottom of it.”

 “Sworn testimony and press reports have established that Republicans with close ties to Rick Perry’s campaign planned and organized a covert, corporate effort to get Green Party candidates on the November ballot, an effort financed by over $500,000 in secret contributions.

“Mike Toomey, one of Rick Perry’s closest friends and his former Chief of Staff paid to start a petition effort. Republican operative Tim Mooney, who had worked on similar petition drives with Perry consultant Dave Carney, actually arranged the covert operation  by connecting secret Republican donors with an out of state corporation that conducted the drive.  

“Texans deserve to know who was behind a half million dollar effort that used the Green Party to influence the 2010 elections. The Green Party claims it opposes the use of corporate money to influence elections, and Green Party leaders still have time to follow the example of Green Party candidate Roger Baker, a nominee for Travis Co. Clerk, who withdrew from the ballot as a matter of conscience.

“It shouldn’t take a Supreme Court hearing to make the Republicans who organized and funded the Green Party ballot scheme come clean with Texas voters.

 

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About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.

9 Comments

  1. Scandal!…Scheme!…Scam!…Conspiracy!!!!!!
    I am getting tired of this shrill Democratic tabloidish reporting.

    Why doesn't the TDP sue the Republican Party for an orchestrated attempt every election to siphon off votes from the Dems because they put forth Rep candidates every time. Aren't there conservative Panhandle, West Texas, East Texas voters out there that might vote for Dems if there weren't any Republican candidates on the ballot?

    What will your headline be if the TX Supreme Court allows the Greens to remain on the ballot? “We were Wrong and Full of It…our Bad”

    Or will it be a “Vast Right-wing Conspiracy by the Courts”?

  2. Somehow…
    BradM, somehow I suspect that a rational explanation or response to your indignant rant will fall on deaf ears, but let me briefly explain.

    There is a legal issue relating to corporate dollars going into a petition drive.  It appears that some folks broke the law.

    Second, there is an ethical issue for the Green Party who have always proclaimed the need for a higher standard of transparency and the elimination of corporate dollars from politics.

    What the Greens did went against the spirit and letter of the law and is counter to their core beliefs. To me, that is a story, and a disappointing one at that.

    This case is not over. The Supremes merely said they could certify, but there is a large chance they will be removed when all is said and done.

  3. Food for thought
    http://www.ballot-access.org/2

    McKinney, you touch on 2 issues. Ethics and legal.

    Yes, it does look like the Greens went against some of their main convictions which should be disappointing for many members of the Green Party of Texas. Yet, I see this happen many times with Democratic office holders too when they become beholden to and influenced by special interests rather than their espoused Democratic ideals and platforms.

    My “rant” above is about the total self-interest of the Democratic commentary. It is just self-righteous to read sometimes. I do see there are a few legal issues to be resolved and this case obviously is in virgin territory in examining certain aspects of Texas election law.

    You say it “appears” that election law has been broken. “Appears” is the key word in that sentence. While it is utterly distasteful to read about an obvious attempt by the Republicans to influence the upcoming election it unfortunately, at the end of the day, may turn out to be legal. We'll see.

    As a note, I am supporter and volunteer for Bill White's campaign. Possibly a 1% vote for a Green gubernatorial candidate could make the difference (scream “Nader” now!), if those voters went Green instead of for White, but I feel more strongly about democracy than any one candidate's election prospects and especially about its affect on any one party's election wins or losses.  

    • what part of “illegal” do you not understand
      It is illegal to use corporate donations in Texas for anything other than facilities. It is the law.

      And it looks like the green party knowingly broke the law.

      What do you want the Democrats to do? give up? Let by gones be by gones? Just let the greens break the law that will possibly change the election?

      I hope the Dems sue the living crap out of the greens and break them financially. They deserve it.

    • Baby Snooks on

      And if they might go Green instead of Perry?
      If the boys in the backroom in Austin thought the Green Party candidate might draw votes away from Perry instead of White, they'd have been the loudest supporters of the “illegality” of the moment.  Such hypocrites.

      Last time it was Kinky who cost the Democrats the governor's mansion.  This time it will be the Green Party.

       

  4. Qualifier
    “looks like”?

    John…doesn't sound like you are 100% certain that the Greens broke the law. Are you on the Supreme Court and know something we don't?

    I don't want the Dems to give up. I want them to work very hard to win elections with good candidates. But your angst seems bent on the Greens and that they'll change the election. All I hear are self-interest comments in your post.  

    I doubt you are an election law expert and I am certainly not, but your comment on facilites being the only eligible area of corporate contributions is pretty far of base.

    By the way I don't think you can break the Green Party financially. They are already broken.  

  5. Greenies Vulnerable, Dems Shooting Selves in Foot
    The Texas Supreme Court consists of nine GOP judges, each probably rather to the right of Justice Roberts on the US Supreme Court. Given time to compose a ruling on ballot access petitions — submitted by the Green Party but paid for my GOP donors — all nine can be expected to go even beyond Citizens United in favoring the political rights and remedies of wealthy corporations and individuals.

    And, whatever they come up with will likely be the law in Texas for quite some time.

    There is no doubt that the money in question, about $500M, was a political contribution with partisan intent. Of course, all donations, large or small, “soft” or “hard”, from “for-profit” or “not-for-profit” corporations are of that character. Parties are not charities or churches.

    The idea that the money is designed to benefit the campaign of Rick Perry and hurt Bill White is doubtless true but is probably beside the point. The real damage will likely be to our Clerk candidate here in Harris County, Ann Harris Bennett.

    In any case, petition to get on the ballot were submitted and accepted by the Secretary of State before the Green Party had even nominated its candidates. Those are the only facts the Justices will likely consider germane.

    The Texas Supreme Court will likely uphold a traditional distinction between corporate contributions, “soft money”, for “party building” — notably including political conventions — and “campaigns” directly financed by “hard money” from PAC's or individuals.

    The Justices will likely ignore a statute which allows to “parties nominating by primary election” to associate some “soft money” with certain items in the budget each executive committee approves annually.

    Actually, checks from the state itself, for primary expenses, are depositing in a bank account different from those accounts checks are written from for this or that depending on whether they come from corporations or PACs and individuals. To the extent anything is actually litigated, rather than just argued, it will be a “paper trail”.

    Neither of the two main parties has much of a business model or rigorous accounting controls. The consultants play a “compliance” game with each other. Members of both state executive committees usually wake up after the General Election to find that those consultants keep both parties “barefoot and pregnant”.

    Neither party has any capital to speak of and are often in actual violation of federal or state law for using or misusing funds of various origins for various purposes at the state or county level. Like BP, the large donors and mercenary consultants just pay fines do whatever is expedient for themselves and their clients.

    There is a huge ideological difference among voters between the parties on the matter of money-in-politics. But, there is not that much of a moral or technical one between each party's big-shot politicos. They practice “ethics”, not accounting.

    What parties do is the province of “funds accounting”, but neither main party has a funds accounting system. They dinky compliance packages and spreadsheets — “virtual” cigar boxes with some deposit slips and receips.  

    Because it does not get any state money and is organized at the state level, evidently nominating candidates for county office by state convention, the Green Party has a potentially much simpler business model that either of the two main parties. And, after the Texas Supreme Court rules on a lawsuit brought by the TDP, the Green and Libertarian parties may end up with a better business model — a competitive economic advantage — over both the GOP and the TDP.

    As usual, both main parties' Austin-centric incumbents and consultants are fighting a proxy war with each other over unfamiliar, “third party”, territory. This may prove to be a strategic blunder — long-term — by both of them, but it is one the TDP cannot afford to make — short-term.  

    • Excellent comment
      Not at all clear that the Greens broke the law. Since the two major parties do not have to gather signatures to get on the ballot, how do you properly characterize those expenses? Very strong argument that they are administrative – similar to holding a convention. Also, not clear how the recent USSC ruling affects this issue. Do corporations have a right to make expenditures that get a candidate on the ballot, such as collecting signatures?

      Even if the court says that corporate spending for signatures is illegal, you have an equal protection claim – the R's and D's can take money for admin expenses that support their candidates but the Greens (and others) can't take corporate money for signature gathering, which is essential to their existence?

      I think the Greens win this one.  

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