Green Party appeals to Supreme Court

As expected.

Even if allegations about an illegal petition drive are true, knocking Green Party candidates off the November general election ballot before they can be proven imposes “a death penalty,” lawyers for the party argued Monday in a written appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.

The party has until Friday to certify its candidates for the fall election, but a judge last Friday ordered it not to proceed because of an “unauthorized illegal contribution” by a corporation with Republican links.

“This case matters because voters should have an alternative to entrenched career politicians. Despite the signatures of over 90,000 Texans, entrenched career politicians and their lawyers want to deny voters the right to choose in November,” said David Rogers, one of the Green Party lawyers.

Rogers, like everybody else working on behalf of the Green Party in this effort, is a professional Republican. Just as a reminder, the issue on which District Judge John Dietz based his ruling barring them from certifying their signatures was that anonymously-donated money used to pay for the third-party-run petition drive was illegal corporate cash. I understand the appeal to idealism here, but how do you address that underlying reality?

Testimony last week revealed that Mike Toomey, a close Perry friend and his former chief of staff, paid $12,000 to recent University of Texas graduate Garrett Mize to organize a petition drive to collect the 43,991 petition signatures necessary to get the Greens on the November ballot.

Mize testified he was approached by a family friend who worked for Eric Bearse, a former senior aide to Perry, and that he was told not to inform the Green Party of the financial backing. When that petition drive failed to get enough signatures, the out-of-state corporation Take Initiative America came in and completed the work. That group also has Republican connections.

Clearly, you address it by not talking about it and hoping that no one notices. Didn’t quite work out, I’m afraid.

One more point, from the DMN story:

Rogers dismissed the Democrats’ consipiracy theory to pull left-leaning voters away from White.

“If the Republican Party insiders are doing stuff like that, we wouldn’t know about it,” Rogers said. “If the Republicans are doing the right thing for the wrong reason, is it wrong or is it right?”

I’m not sure what Rogers means by “the right thing” here, but if ballot access were so important to the Republican Party and its insiders, it was well within their power to modify Texas’ laws that make it so hard for third parties and independent candidates to get certified. I don’t recall any bills being filed in the last four legislative sessions, during which the Republicans have been in full control, to that effect. Putting that aside, if they had done “the right thing” in proper fashion, we wouldn’t be having this argument in the first place.

Anyway. The Supreme Court is expected to rule by Friday, which is the deadline for parties to certify their candidates for November. That may not be the end of it, however.

Candidates for the ballot have to be certified by Friday. The Supreme Court could say that the order from District Judge John Dietz came too late in the process and is therefore moot, or it could say that the contribution was not an illegal use of corporate money, or it could temporarily allow the Green candidates on the ballot while justices take more time to study the case.

But there are other legal ramifications lurking out there. Election lawyer Buck Wood, who often helps Democratic candidates, said Monday that the Green Party leaders who certify the ballot could be susceptible to criminal charges if the Supreme Court agrees with Dietz that the money that got the Greens onto the ballot was an illegal corporate contribution. Or, more to the point, if they do not disagree with Dietz.

They would become vulnerable if they followed through with their plan to certify the candidates on the ballot, Wood said. The key is that they now know that it was a corporate contribution that came in from Take Initiative America, which paid for the petition drive that appeared to make the Greens eligible for the ballot.

“They’ve been told it’s illegal. They’ve got knowledge now,” Wood said. “If I were their lawyer, I’d say, ‘You go ahead and certify those names and hopefully the Travis County district attorney’s office won’t take an interest in you.’”

David Rogers, a lawyer for the Green Party, said, “With all due respect to Mr. Wood, who is a very fine election law attorney, I believe he is misreading the law in an attempt to gain an electoral advantage for the Democratic Party. He is a consultant for the Democrats in this matter, and all his comments regarding the law in this case need to be considered with that in mind. Texas allows corporate contributions for ‘normal operating expenses’ of a political party. If getting on the ballot isn’t a ‘normal’ expense of a political party, what is?”

Actually, it’s well established that this law refers to “administrative” expenses – things like rent and utilities and office supplies. Corporate money cannot be used on political expenses, which I daresay covers signature gathering for a ballot access petition. But what do I know? We’ll see what the Supremes have to say.

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6 Responses to Green Party appeals to Supreme Court

  1. Brad M. says:

    I love Wood’s blustering “you’ll get in trouble if you do that!”


    Texas state election law equates a petition signature to a primary vote. Ie that is why there is a “primary screen out” in Texas that you can’t sign a petition if you’ve voted in a primary or vice versa. Corporate donations are legal to parties to conduct primary elections or precinct conventions. For minor parties a petition drive is the equivalent of a primary election or convention.

    If after all this kerfuffle the Greens are allowed to remain on the ballot and certify their candidates will there be a chorus of “vast right-wing conspiracy!!!!” from the Dems?

  2. Mike says:

    I would argue that for a minor party in Texas ballot access is an administrative cost. That’s the major task of the state party office.

  3. Jack Dutton says:

    Administrative costs also include the money required to run primaries and conventions. So, ExxonMobil can give the Dems or the GOP donations to pay for state conventions. Hotel rooms, plane tickets, expensive dinners are all administrative costs. But, petitioning your government is unethical?

    The real story is that GOP was paid to infiltrate the Green Party. The Dems know this because they infiltrated the GOP. The Greens just have the dumb luck of being the security guard at the Watergate Hotel. Stop picking on the GP, and get to the criminal activity that is behind it all.

  4. Jim R says:

    Texas law permits corporate and union contributions for the administration of primaries and conventions. To qualify for the ballot, a party needs to have a certain number of voters attend its precinct convention, where they sign in on a list much like voters do at a primary. Surely the paper they sign, the ink, the tables, and the clerical help are administrative expenses of this essential convention activity.

    Texas law permits new parties to supplement their precinct attendance lists with supplemental petitions. The qualification to sign the petition is the same as attending a precinct convention – you can’t have participated in the conventions or primary of another party. So how is the paper, ink, tables, and clerical help for these supplemental petitions any different? The US Supreme Court has clearly recognized them as a single qualifying activity (American Party of Texas v White)

    So either gathering of signatures for the supplemental petition is part of the administrative expense of the conventions; or Texas law is unconstitutional because it treats supporters of new parties different than established parties, by permitting corporations to contribute to the administration of the nominating activities of some parties, and not others; and also treats voters differently based on which county they live in, and whether there were precinct conventions in their county.

    If John Warren, Democratic nominee for Dallas County Clerk is injured by the Green Party activities, isn’t John Deitz, Democratic nominee for District Judge, 250th Judicial Court also injured?

  5. David Rogers says:

    Mr. Kuffner: the “well-established” law is this:

    Texas Election Code:

    Sec. 253.104. CONTRIBUTION TO POLITICAL PARTY. (a) A corporation or labor organization may make a contribution from its own property to a political party to be used as provided by Chapter 257.
    Sec. 257.002. REQUIREMENTS RELATING TO CORPORATE OR LABOR UNION CONTRIBUTIONS. (a) A political party that accepts a contribution authorized by Section 253.104 may use the contribution only to: (1) defray normal overhead and administrative or operating costs incurred by the party; or (2) administer a primary election or convention held by the party.

    You may note that the word “operating costs” does in fact appear in the statute, contrary to your assertions.

    As for “political” expenses, that word has a specific definition in the statute that is far narrower than the use you are putting the word to.

    Section 251.001(10), Texas Election Code provides:

    “Political expenditure” means a campaign expenditure or an officeholder expenditure.

    Section 251.001(7), Texas Election Code provides:

    “Campaign expenditure” means an expenditure made by any person in connection with a campaign for an elective office or on a measure. Whether an expenditure is made before, during, or after an election does not affect its status as a campaign expenditure.

    As a partisan, you have no obligation to present the facts. But you would be more persuasive if you did.

  6. Wow, so the Republican attorney representing the Green Party is lecturing me about being objective? Cool. You gonna bill whoever’s bankrolling your efforts on their behalf for the time it took you to leave this comment, David?

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