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Were the Green signatures obtained illegally?

Wayne Slater follows up his previous reporting on the petition signatures that were gathered by an outside organization for the Green Party with the question about the legality of it.

It’s unclear who paid for the petition drive, but funding went through Take Initiative America, a Missouri nonprofit corporation. Buck Wood, an Austin lawyer and expert in election law, said Monday that such a transaction is illegal under state law.

“That corporation cannot make contributions to political parties in Texas. And to do so is a felony,” he said. “It is also a felony for a political party to accept a corporate contribution.”

[…]

Wood said that while an individual donor could legally bankroll petition drives to put a party on the ballot, corporations cannot. Wood has represented Democrats in litigation in which corporate money was illegally used to defeat political candidates.

In the case of the Texas Green Party, a Chicago-based petition-gathering company, Free and Equal Inc., gathered the signatures under contract with Take Initiative America.

It’s unclear whether the petitions could be disallowed based on how the Green Party reports the donation. But the party and its leaders could face significant penalties if they are found to break the law.

The Texas secretary of state is reviewing the signatures submitted by the Green Party. If the agency validates the petitions, the party will be on the ballot in November. A decision is expected by the end of the month.

I have a lot of respect for Buck Wood, who knows a hell of a lot about election law, but he’s not exactly a disinterested bystander here. I’d like to hear from some more experts to see if there’s a consensus view on this. I’m also unclear about whether or not the Secretary of State’s ruling on the signatures’ validity includes consideration of the issue that Wood raises, or if their only mandate is to check to see if the signers are registered voters who did not participate in the primaries. If so, then I presume a lawsuit would have to be filed to challenge the legality of the petitions and their funding source. Can anyone confirm this? Thanks.

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3 Comments

  1. Brad M. says:

    Very interesting case here.

    Now if I had a non-profit corp and decided to get the Constituion Party on the ballot here in Texas I wonder if I would be able to gather +45K signatures on my own and submit to the Sec of State without actually handing over the petition to the CP. Would that have to be reported by the CP as a “contirbution” of any type?

    My guess is that GP will be admonished in some way here if they list it is a contribution, but the petition submission will not be affected and will be allowed.

    BUT the petition itself may ultimately be rejected since I believe many (most?) signatures were gathered on the internet via electronic sigantures. This is unchartered territory with the Sec of State and Texas election law.

  2. Daniel says:

    I saw Republican pollsters openly advertising the Green Party petition at gun shows in Texas as a Republican strategy to dilute Democratic voting strength. These were definitely not Greens circulating the petition.

  3. Brad M. says:

    The only thing that would’ve been funnier is if it had actually been Greens circulating it at the gun show to entice Reps to sign a petition that has the potential to help them beat Dems in November. Too bad the Greens have never used that strategy. Assuredly there were Dems who signed Strayhorns petition in 2006 to dilute the votes going to Perry. Is it illegal for “Republican pollsters” to circulate a Green petition? And how did you know they were Republican pollsters?