High court lets Green Party on bal­lot – for now

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ja­son Em­bry

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

Con­tin­ued from A bal­lot.

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.

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