High court lets Green Party on ballot – for now
The Texas Supreme Court allowed the Green Party of Texas to field candidates for the fall elections Friday, temporarily lifting a lower court’s order that barred the party from the November ballot.
The court asked for additional briefs to determine whether gathering petition signa- tures, which is how the Greens qualified for the ballot, is a legal use of corporate money. The high court could still block the party from competing in November if it eventually agrees with District Judge John Dietz of Austin that petition-gathering was not a legal use of those corporate dollars.
The Green Party submitted its candidates to Secretary of State Hope Andrade’s office Friday, the last day that it could do so. It fielded candidates in four statewide races, including governor, and in two congressional races and two Texas House races.
Green Party candidates did not automatically qualify for the ballot in Texas this year. But state law allows minor parties to petition for ballot access, and in May the Greens submitted more than 90,000 signatures to get on the
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A Missouri-based nonprofit corporation, Take Initiative America, paid more than $500,000 for the petition effort. The Texas Democratic Party asked Dietz to block the Greens from fielding candidates, claiming that the contribution from Take Initiative America ran afoul of state laws that limit how corporations can spend money in politics. Dietz agreed last week and barred the Greens from the ballot, prompting the party to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Kat Swift, the Green Party’s statewide coordinator, said Friday that Take Initiative America misled the party into thinking it was not a corporation.
“We would not have taken it had they said, ‘We are a corporation,’ ” Swift said.
But the Greens have not slowed their effort to get on the ballot since learning that the organization is, in fact, corporate.
“That would be taking those 92,000 people’s voices away,” Swift said, referring to those who signed the petitions.
Take Initiative America has not disclosed its donors, but the group has a number of ties to Republicans. A lawyer who identifies herself as the group’s counsel is co-chair of the Republican National Lawyers Association, according to the association’s Web site. Republican operative Tim Mooney of Arizona helped arrange for Take Initiative America and the Green Party to work together, according to The Dallas Morning News.
In court testimony last week, a former University of Texas student said lobbyist Mike Toomey, a former chief of staff to Gov. Rick Perry who is active in efforts to boost Republicans’ legislative majority, personally paid him to gather signatures to get the Greens on the ballot. An aide to Eric Bearse, Perry’s former speechwriter, put Toomey and the student in touch. That petition effort eventually fell short.
Democrats are suing not only to block Greens from the ballot this year, but also to identify Take Initiative America’s donors.
“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,” said Boyd Richie, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.
A Green Party presence on the ballot could siphon votes from Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White and other candidates in his party.
The Green Party’s association with Republicans has drawn criticism from some of their usual allies. David Weinberg, executive director of the Texas League of Conservation Voters, wrote a letter to Green Party leaders Thursday asking them not to field candidates.
“Candidates for office who owe their place on the ballot to funders who do not support cracking down on polluters and a clean environment cannot be trusted by the public to adhere to a pro-environment agenda,” Weinberg wrote.
Swift said the presence of a Green Party candidate in the governor’s race would expand the debate. She also rejected the notion that a Green Party nominee automatically hurts the Democrat. “Current polls show voters want more choices,” she said.