Group sues to pre­vent mailer probe

Nonex­is­tent board used by Em­power Tex­ans in at­tack ad

The Dallas Morning News - - Obituaries - By JACKIE WANG Austin Bureau­las­ Twit­ter: @jc­ql­nwng

AUSTIN — Tea party group Em­power Tex­ans sued Mon­day to block crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions of an at­tack ad about Fort Worth Rep. Char­lie Geren that it sent dur­ing pri­mary sea­son.

The Texas Tribune re­ported that Em­power Tex­ans filed a civil rights law­suit Feb. 28 in fed­eral court in Mid­land, seek­ing an in­junc­tion and a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der on the district at­tor­neys of Travis, Tar­rant and Mid­land coun­ties, as well as against At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken Pax­ton. A hear­ing on the tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der is sched­uled for Wed­nes­day.

The law­suit says that Em­power Tex­ans fears pros­e­cu­tion for us­ing the name the “Texas Ethics Dis­clo­sure Board,” which does not ex­ist, and that the group plans to con­tinue us­ing it. Travis County District At­tor­ney Mar­garet Moore told the Tribune that a crim­i­nal com­plaint against Em­power Tex­ans re­gard­ing the mailer is un­der re­view. The com­plaint from a Fort Wortharea voter claims the group broke a law that does not let peo­ple present them­selves as govern­ment au­thor­i­ties.

The mailer sent by Em­power Tex­ans, op­er­at­ing un­der the name “Texas Ethics Dis­clo­sure Board,” listed the lob­by­ing clients of Mindy Ellmer, who is mar­ried to Geren.

“This no­tice from the Texas Ethics Dis­clo­sure Board is di­rected to vot­ers in HOUSE DISTRICT 99 con­cern­ing a can­di­date for of­fice who must dis­close a re­la­tion­ship with a reg­is­tered lob­by­ist pur­suant to Tex. Gov’t Code 572.0531,” the mailer reads.

Geren, a Repub­li­can, told The Dal­las Morn­ing News in Fe­bru­ary that he’d coun­tered Em­power Tex­ans’ move by buy­ing as many in­ter­net do­main names for the group as pos­si­ble.

He won his pri­mary con­test against Fort Worth busi­ness­man Bo French, who re­ceived thou­sands from Em­power Tex­ans and con­ser­va­tive back­ers who were try­ing to oust Geren and other mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans, many of whom were closely aligned with out­go­ing House Speaker Joe Straus.

In re­cent cy­cles, Em­power Tex­ans pres­i­dent Michael Quinn Sul­li­van has joined forces with so­cial con­ser­va­tive groups such as Texas Right to Life, the Texas Home School Coali­tion and Texas Ea­gle Fo­rum to try to de­feat “RINOS” — deemed Repub­li­cans in name only.

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