Democrats won’t try to keep Greens off the ballot
Lawsuit now focuses on revealing source of cash for rival party’s petition drive
Texas Democrats changed course Wednesday and stopped trying to keep the Green Party off the November ballot, but they vowed to keep trying to find out who gave the Greens the money to get on the ballot in the first place.
Democrats are suing Green Party officials and others involved in helping the party gather signatures to get the Greens on the ballot, saying the petition drive was an illegal use of corporate money. As part of that lawsuit, Democrats had asked the courts to block the Greens from the ballot.
Their request had been under review by the Texas Supreme Court. But Democrats withdrew that request Wednesday in an effort to prove that they are not trying to limit voters’ choices in the election.
Instead, Democratic lawyers will focus their suit on trying to determine the donors to Take Initiative America, an out-of-state nonprofit corporation that paid a firm to collect more than 90,000 petition signatures to qualify the Green Party for the ballot. Take Initiative America has a number of ties to Republicans.
“This case has never been exclusively about whether or not the Green Party gets on the
ballot,” said Chad Dunn, a lawyer for the Democrats. “That was a small part of it. The focus in this case was discovering all the violations of the law and ensuring that those responsible pay the necessary penalties.”
If the Democrats’ lawsuit is successful, a judge could order Green Party officials and those they worked with on the petition drive to pay Democrats hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
Although the Greens still must file a response to the Democrats’ motion to allow them onto the ballot, that mo- tion is expected to go through, clearing the way for Greens to have candidates for governor and other statewide offices for the first time since 2002.
“They’re going to continue to harass our clients and innocent third parties,” David Rogers, a lawyer for the Green Party, said of the Democrats. “But they have surrendered on what we think is the most important issue.”
Although the rest of their statewide slate is unproven, Democrats have high hopes for former Houston Mayor Bill White, who is trying to unseat Republican Gov. Rick Perry. James Henson, director of the Texas Politics project at the University of Texas, said he doubts the Green Party candidate will take many votes from White.
“I suspect that if the Democrats had internal polling showing the Greens were really going to eat into White’s total, they wouldn’t be so magnanimous as this,” Henson said.
Although the presence of a Green candidate in the race may do little harm to White, the larger lawsuit against the Greens could give Republicans headaches. The suit has already shown that a number of Republican operatives sought to help the Greens get on the ballot, probably with the hope that Green nominees would siphon votes from Democrats.
In a court hearing last month, former UT student Garrett Mize said lobbyist Mike Toomey, Perry’s close ally and former chief of staff, personally paid him to try to gather signatures for the Greens. Stuart Moss, who worked at the time for former Perry speech writer Eric Bearse, put Toomey and Mize in touch, Mize said.
An e-mail that Democrats obtained through their lawsuit showed that Republican operative Anthony Holm was in contact with Green Party officials as they tried to gather signatures this year. Holm’s company, the Patriot Group, received more than $90,000 from Perry’s campaign last year for technology consulting, although Holm said he was not involved with the firm’s work for Perry.
Perry’s campaign has denied involvement with the Green Party effort.
Although the Greens filed candidates in a number of statewide races, the party has filed just a couple of candidates in legislative and congressional contests.