Nearly three months after the election, Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal has finally issued a report which clears Texans for True Mobility of lawbreaking during the runup to the rail referendum.
Texans for True Mobility violated no state campaign laws when it concealed the identity of contributors who underwrote advertisements bashing Metro's transit expansion plan before the Nov. 4 referendum, Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said Friday.
However, with a civil court lawsuit and a complaint to the Texas Ethics Commission pending against the group, it was unclear whether Rosenthal's finding clears the way for other groups to enter the political arena with unidentified sources of money.
Voters narrowly approved the Metropolitan Transit Authority's $7.5 billion regional transportation plan. Its centerpiece calls for constructing 73 more miles of rail by 2025 and issuing $640 million in bonds to help fund the next 22 miles.
Texans for True Mobility's nonprofit corporation ran advertisements saying the plan "costs too much, does too little." The group is believed to have spent about $1.5 million.
Rosenthal said his Government Affairs Bureau's investigation, prompted by a Houston Chronicle complaint, found that the campaign involved educating the public rather than calling specifically for a "no" vote on the referendum.
Only if the corporation had specifically taken a position on the referendum would Texans for True Mobility be subject to the Texas election code requiring political groups to disclose their contributors, Rosenthal said.
The district attorney, a Republican, said the investigation was not affected by the fact that he got political contributions from Texans for True Mobility members for his election campaign in 2000 and his re-election campaign this year.