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TPJ files complaint against King Street Patriots

From the inbox:

TPJ today filed a formal complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission alleging that the King Street Patriots and KSP/True the Vote have violated the state’s prohibition on corporate contributions to political parties and candidates. The complaint says the groups appear to have made repeated in-kind corporate contributions to the Harris County Republican Party and a slate of Republican candidates for legislative, judicial and county offices.

Good for them. This group, which has provided all of the fodder Leo Vasquez has used against Houston Votes, has been claiming to be a non-profit but as The American Independent pointed out last week, they sure haven’t acted like one:

The King Street Patriots (KSP), which representatives say is registered with the IRS as a nonprofit 501(c)4 corporation, has hosted regular forums for GOP candidates at its Hempstead Highway headquarters without extending invitations to their Democratic opponents. KSP president Catherine Engelbrecht said her group is abiding by the law, but legal experts said the forums, if partisan in nature, flout state prohibitions against corporate campaign contributions.

“You can’t operate a candidate forum where you bring in only one side of the spectrum. If you do you’re a political committee,” said Austin attorney Buck Wood, a Texas elections expert. “If a nonprofit takes money to pay for candidate forums and is expending that money to expose candidates for public office to audiences on a regular basis, then I have no doubt you’re a political committee under Texas law.”

When told about experts’ observations that KSP may be breaking laws, Engelbrecht disagreed.

“Well, we’re not,” she said.

Boy, you can’t argue with logic like that. See more from the Independent here, the full TPJ press release here, and the ethics complaint here. The Trib has a response from the teabaggers, who in typical fashion accuse everyone else of being the bullies.

Finally, on a related note, the TDP announced that it is adding the KSPers to their lawsuit against the Harris County Tax Assessor over voter registration issues. Click on to see their press release, and click here to see the accompanying media kit. Stace and PDiddie have more.

The Texas Democratic Party today announced they are amending their ongoing lawsuit against the Green Party to now include the Houston-based King Street Patriots.

In their original suit against the Green Party, Democrats sought to uncover the source of funds which were funneled through a nonprofit corporation to the Green Party as a means to get Green Party candidates on the Texas ballot in key races, including the governor’s race. Democrats now say that the King Street Patriots are employing the exact same strategy, basically using a nonprofit corporation to conduct partisan political activities intended to benefit Republicans.

An entity which files as a 501c4 nonprofit corporation for tax purposes is required to file public disclosures of its donors but only if it engages in partisan political activities. In order for any group to conduct partisan political activities in Texas, it must register with the Texas Ethics Commission as a political committee. Democrats say the King Street Patriots are not only violating their tax status by helping Republicans but are also illegally operating as an unregistered political committee. Also, because King Street Patriots is a corporation, its political expenditures are illegal.

“The strategy here is obvious. Republicans are using nonprofit corporations to do their dirty work so that they can keep the public from ever knowing who funded it all,” said Chad Dunn, General Counsel for the Texas Democratic Party. “We are not only going to find out who these shadow donors are, we’re also going to make sure all the Republican campaigns, King Street Patriot workers and Republican elected officials who violated the law are held responsible for their actions.”

The King Street Patriots were first introduced to the local political scene when they joined Republican Voter Registrar Leo Vasquez in a press conference alleging unfounded voter registration problems in Harris County. Soon thereafter the group again came under scrutiny when it was discovered that a video they produced and had posted on the front page of their website included a suspicious photograph of an African American woman with a sign that read “I only got to vote once.” The photograph was quickly discovered to have been altered, the original photo was from a Gore-Lieberman rally and the actual sign said “Don’t Mess With Our Vote.” At a recent appearance before the King Street Patriots, County Judge Ed Emmett’s campaign manager delivered a message of support from Emmett including a reference to the “I only got to vote once” photo. The video was quickly taken down from the website and is no longer available.

Last week the group again was embroiled in controversy when they posted a video of Republican state house candidate Jim Murphy online in which he was giving what was clearly a campaign speech to the group. During his speech Murphy introduced his campaign staff “because they want you to get to work, and they want to see you after this presentation.” Later Murphy touched on the subject of needing help electing more Republicans to the Texas House. Like the video with the altered photograph, Murphy’s video was also quickly taken down.

“The King Street Patriots are working to elect Republicans, that fact is beyond dispute,” said Anthony Gutierrez, a spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party. “And that would be fine except that neither the group nor the Republicans seem to want to follow the laws everyone has to follow. They’re hiding money, they’re campaigning without registering their committee and there are illegal corporate contributions flying around all over the place.”

Democrats point to several examples in which the King Street Patriots appear to be providing paid or volunteer manpower to Republican candidates as evidence of illegal corporate contributions. In Texas, corporations are only allowed to give contributions to certain political entities and those funds can only be used for administrative purposes, never for political activities. Examples provided by Democrats include screenshots of King Street Patriots organizing door-to-door canvasses for Republican state house candidates as well as a poll watcher program in which the Harris County Republican Party refers people who want to be poll watchers to the King Street Patriots, who train and deploy them to work for Republican candidates.

“If you give a Republican campaign $10 and they use it to pay a poll watcher or you pay a poll watcher $10 and have them work for Republicans, either way it’s a political contribution and in this case, it’s an illegal contribution because this group is a nonprofit corporation,” said Chad Dunn, General Counsel for the Texas Democratic Party. “The bottom line is that this group and Republicans like Jim Murphy are blatantly disregarding the law.”

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  1. Michael says:

    Man, Texas only has three measley campaign finance laws and they can’t even manage to obey those…

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