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DA clears TTM

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.

You all know my position on this. I completely fail to understand how TTM was not advocating defeat of the referendum. Maybe there is no way to “educate” without “advocating”, I don’t know. If so, it seems to me that what we need is consistency in the law, and to me that means full disclosure of donors. I’d be willing to compromise and allow anonymity up to a certain level of donation, say $200 or $500. Anyone who gives five figures to something like this, though, should not be allowed to hide about it. Not that I’ll be holding my breath in anticipation of new laws, mind you.

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  1. Sue says:

    Those ads weren’t objective. In fact, I’m surprised they didn’t have an ad talking about how many accidents were likely to occur with the presence of Light Rail.

  2. […] y’all. But then that’s been the hallmark of rail opponents around here, going back to Texans for True Mobility in the 2003 referendum, and no doubt much farther than that. No surprise there at […]