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This was a busy week for dumb lawsuits

Exhibit A:

“Objection Overruled”, by Charles Bragg

Houston mayoral challenger Tony Buzbee followed through his pledge to sue Mayor Sylvester Turner Wednesday, claiming that donated billboards for the city’s AlertHouston! campaign violate campaign finance laws because they feature a photo of Turner.

The lawsuit, filed in the 281st state district court, names Turner and Clear Channel Outdoor Inc., the company that donated the 27 billboards, as defendants.

Buzbee’s petition claims Clear Channel is “blatantly supporting” Turner in the November mayoral race “by plastering his smiling face across this city while promoting him as a civic-minded, safety conscious leader.”

The billboards promote AlertHouston!, a system that sends alerts to Houston residents during emergency situations.

I’m not going to waste our time on the details here. Let’s refer to this earlier story for the reasons why this is dumb.

Buck Wood, an Austin-based campaign finance lawyer, equated Buzbee’s allegations to a hypothetical real estate agent who, after announcing a run for public office, would then have to take down any advertisements for their private business.

“I have never seen anything like that,” he said.

Proving the billboards are illegal, Wood said, would require Buzbee to show that the company and Turner struck a deal explicitly aimed at aiding the mayor’s re-election.

“You’d have to have good, strong evidence that they put up these pictures just for the purpose of helping elect him,” Wood said. “…You’d have to prove a conspiracy, and that’s basically impossible to do in this situation.”

Each year around hurricane season, former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett would appear on billboards, in some years directing people to the county’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management website. Emmett said he used campaign funds to pay for the billboards during election years.

I mean, I know Tony Buzbee is supposed to be a super duper lawyer and all, but maybe he might have asked another lawyer about this first? Just a thought.

Exhibit B:

Months after being denied media credentials for the Texas House, the conservative organization Texas Scorecard — a product of Empower Texans, a Tea Party-aligned political advocacy group with one of the state’s best-funded political action committees — has filed a First Amendment lawsuit arguing that its rejection from the lower chamber constitutes “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.”

Before the legislative session kicked off in January, two employees of Texas Scorecard, Brandon Waltens and Destin Sensky, applied for media credentials in both chambers of the Legislature. In the Senate, their credentials were granted; in the House, they were denied. The two chambers follow similar rules about who is allowed special journalistic access to the floor, and both prohibit lobbyists. But the chambers’ political atmospheres are different.

House Administration Chair Charlie Geren, a Fort Worth Republican who has sparred with Empower Texans and its PAC in the past, told the group in a January rejection letter that it was ineligible for media credentials because “the organization you are employed by, Texas Scorecard, has a close association with a general-purpose political committee (GPAC) and that the organization’s website prominently displays advocacy on policy matters before the legislature.” As evidence of the group’s affiliation with the PAC, Geren cited the organizations’ shared address — but by the time Geren’s letter was issued, the lawsuit claims, they no longer shared that address.

Empower Texans PAC has backed primary opponents to Geren and has given Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who leads the Texas Senate, more than $850,000 in the last five years.

Now, Empower Texans is very likely to get a friendly hearing from the State Supreme Court, so at least from a strategic perspective, this isn’t a dumb lawsuit. It’s very likely to be a successful lawsuit. But come on. If these Empower Texans flunkies count as “journalists”, then that word has no meaning. All of us are made a little more dumb by the existence of this lawsuit.

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5 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    Sounds like a frivolous lawsuit to me. It’s a shame Buzbee isn’t facing a bunch of bullshit lawsuits for various things, so he can experience being on the other side of this for a change. Bury his ass in bullshit lawsuits that he must defend against.

    Hey, the Mueller team is available, why not hire them to harass Buzbee?

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    The best part of the linked article is how Turner claims that it will take 75 people one year to copy all of his purchase orders that he signed without council approval. wow, that is a lot of spending without any council oversight. Not that council will do anything. They have failed to impeach him even though HUD determined that his policies promote segregation, and Turner said that he would do everything in his power to overturn their recommendations. Then, he gave contracts to his (former) law partner, and to another law firm that donated to his PAC. Maybe it is legal but clearly he sees his position as a way to reward his friends and supporters and punish his adversaries. I heard that he threatened CM Boykins doing a recent meeting about Proposition B. Not sure why Boykins didn’t react like the Sumner and Brooks affair.

  3. Ross says:

    @Jason, do you Council should approve all contracts/purchase orders, even if the expenditures are part of an approved budget? That would be stupid. No business operates that way, neither do cities. Council doesn’t have time to review and approve thousands of items.

  4. C.L. says:

    Jason, I thought you were busy ensuring folks in Shady Acres weren’t illegally parking across sidewalks or creating hazardous conditions for the local citizens walking their dogs ! Welcome back !

  5. Terry Longs says:

    I’ve seen Buzbee win a lot of stupid lawsuits. Will someone let me know my odds because I’m willing to place a bet?