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Take Initiative America

Greens temporarily make the ballot

The Texas Secretary of State has certified the petition signatures to allow the Green Party on the ballot this fall.

On Wednesday, the secretary of state’s office announced that the party had presented sufficient signatures to field candidates in the fall. The party hasn’t fielded a statewide slate since 2002.

Buck Wood, an Austin lawyer and expert in election law, said the Green Party could have problems if it lists Take Initiative America as the donor instead of the actual source of the funding.

He says Texas law requires more transparency in reporting political money. He said if Take Initiative America is a corporation, it is forbidden from making a donation. If the company is not a corporation, there are other reporting requirements aimed at better disclosing the original donor, he said.

[Kat Swift, state coordinator for the Green Party in Texas] said if the party gets written confirmation that it can legally list Take Initiative America as the in-kind donor, it intends to move forward and field candidates in the fall campaign. She said the group has until June 30 to make the decision.

The TDP has now filed suit to force the disclosure of the donor or donors’ identity.

The motion for a restraining order was filed this morning in district court in Austin. If granted, it would allow lawyers for the Democratic Party to take depositions of participants under oath to find out who bankrolled the effort.

And just like that, a temporary restraining order is granted.

[The TRO] will prevent the Green Party from certifying any candidates for the November ballot for the next 14 days. The big question is whether the Green Party’s use of out-of-state money to gather the more then 92,000 signatures they submitted to get on the ballot (well above the 44,000 necessary) violates state law.

[…]

Regarding today’s decision, TDP General Counsel Chad Dunn said, “The public should view this as a victory for fair elections.” Ultimately, he said, his goal is to expose a “conspiracy between Dave Carney and Tim Mooney,” the former being a prominent advisor to Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

The issue will be revisited at a hearing set for 9 a.m. on June 24. In the meantime, Dunn says he will be in the discovery process getting to the bottom of what he referred to as “this Republican Rick Perry conspiracy.”

If you’re wondering what Dave Carney has to do with this, let the Lone Star Project enlighten you.

Documents obtained by the Lone Star Project reveal that Rick Perry’s top political advisor Dave Carney has a long and direct link to the manager of the Texas Green Party/GOP ballot scam. In 2004, Carney teamed-up with Texas ballot scam leader Tim Mooney to gather signatures to put Ralph Nader on the ballot in order to assist the George W. Bush Presidential campaign.

In 2004, Carney worked with a group called “Choices for America, LLC” which was “run” by Mooney – the same Republican operative who collected signatures for the Green Party of Texas in 2010. (Dallas Morning News, August 12, 2004) Both Choices for America, LLC, the shell group used in 2004, and Take Initiative America, LLC the shell group used in 2010, are registered to Charles Hurth III. (Missouri SOS)

According to the Dallas Morning News, “Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner said the governor’s campaign had nothing to do with the petition-gathering effort.” It now appears that statement is likely not true.

Now you know why these guys like to operate in secret. I agree with what the DMN says.

The bottom line on Texas campaign-finance law is that corporations, either for-profit or nonprofit, can’t legally contribute to candidates or to parties, except to cover party administrative expenses. Yet the Green Party says it intends to report the nonprofit Take Initiative America as the source of an in-kind contribution.

The legality of the money behind the Green petitions needs to be tested in court. The secretary of state’s office will validate signatures but does not administer campaign-finance laws. Campaign finance is the purview of the Texas Ethics Commission, which typically investigates complaints and levies fines.

Other scenarios that would root out the facts involve a civil action by Democrats or an investigation by the Travis County district attorney. Either way, the integrity of the finance laws must be ensured.

The reason why the money came from the non-profit Take Initiative America to the Green Party is because Take Initiative America doesn’t have to disclose who its donors are. For all we know, it’s one wealthy person who wrote the check that covered the cost of getting the petition signatures. The fact that this can be done in secret is the problem. We have a right to know who is attempting to influence our elections. BOR has more.

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.

Who helped the Greens get on the ballot?

According to Wayne Slater, it was “an out-of-state Republican consultant with a history of helping conservative causes and GOP candidates.”

Green Party officials said an outside group gathered the 92,000 signatures and gave them as “a gift” to the party, which delivered them to the secretary of state, who oversees Texas elections. If the secretary of state determines that enough of them are valid, the party will be able to field a slate of candidates for statewide offices for the first time since 2002.

[…]

Christina Tobin, who heads a Chicago-based petition-gathering company called Free and Equal Inc., said she was approached by [Arizona Republican operative Tim] Mooney to collect signatures for the Green Party of Texas.

Another group, Take Initiative America, based in Missouri, would provide payment, Mooney said.

Mooney estimated the cost at $200,000, but declined to give a specific figure or say who put up the money.

“Take Initiative America, being a nonprofit, doesn’t disclose its donors, nor is it required to,” said Mooney, who has little history of working in Texas. “Take Initiative America is a nonpartisan organization. They’d like to see everybody have a chance to get on the ballot – the more choices the better.”

[…]

Kat Swift, state coordinator for the Texas Green Party, said restrictions in Texas – including a short period for petition-gathering and a requirement that signers be registered voters who did not participate in the primary – are tough for third parties to overcome.

“If it hadn’t been for that donation, we wouldn’t have been on the ballot,” she said.

In an online solicitation to supporters, the Green Party offered petition-gatherers $4 per signature, thanks to what the party on its Facebook page called “last minute fairy tale funding.” At that rate, the effort would have cost between $200,000 and $350,000.

She said the Green Party will report the signatures as an in-kind contribution on its next campaign finance report. Take Initiative America will appear as the donor. No law requires the group to disclose its contributors.

Swift said she has no concern that the funding to get her party on the ballot might have come from Republicans who don’t share the party’s liberal philosophy on issues.

“Wherever the money came from doesn’t bother me,” she said. “If it came from Democrats, which I doubt, or if it came from Republicans – whoever made this donation supports an open ballot, open democracy. And that’s the whole point. People are trying to open the ballot to increase democracy and so, who cares how they vote?”

I have a hard time believing Kat Swift is that naive, but whatever. This is far from the first time that Republicans have done this sort of thing – it happened all over the place in 2004, with Ralph Nader – and it’s far from the last. What really bugs me is the anonymous nature of it all. I’ve seen so many cases of big bucks Republican and conservative donors contributing anonymously, or demanding the right to contribute anonymously, to affect the outcome of an election. I have no idea what they’re so afraid of, or why they’re so ashamed to sign their names to their work, but it’s all very typical. Good for the Greens, I guess, but forgive me for not viewing this as some great victory for democracy. BOR, PDiddie, and Harvey Kronberg have more.