In this 2014 Republican runoff election, something curious and peculiar has appeared upon the Montgomery County electoral horizon that has caused a distressing stir and dealt a harmful blow to our politics. Many voters in this primary runoff are purposefully being deceived by a new group posing as the “Tea Party” or as some now refer to it as a “fake tea party.” During early primary runoff voting, Duane Ham, the chair of this new group named Texas Conservative Tea Party Coalition (TCTPC), has aggressively supported the candidacy of Craig Doyal for County Judge and Charlie Riley for County Commissioner Precinct 2. The evidence suggests that this group is a crudely manufactured drive-by operation designed to siphon off votes for these established candidates and curtail the influence of the true Tea Party movement.
In an orchestrated ploy, the group has employed young ladies dressed in red shirts with “Tea Party Patriot” inscribed on the back to pass out “Tea Party Ballots.” With these eerily familiar stylistic schemes, the newly-born group has sought to masquerade themselves as the trusted Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC. Emerging after the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC has been an established flag bearer of the Tea Party spirit to transform county government, fueled by the genuine energy of Tea Party volunteers, hosting signature Tea Party events featuring Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz.
Envious of past victories, this new group has sought to co-opt the Tea Party banner and has, consequently, unleashed deliberate confusion and inflicted a calculated deception upon our politics. For example, many puzzled individuals are asking where is their trusted Tea Party ballot that they have referenced for many years; others received the TCTPC ballot and intelligently sensed that the local candidate selection was not their choice.
With the sleight-of-hand of this organization, it is regretful that Doyal and Riley have graciously accepted the endorsement of the TCTPC and their campaign teams have passed out the TCTPC ballot. By these actions, Doyal and Riley have tacitly sanctioned the antics of the TCTPC, the very underhanded, unethical schemes that have deteriorated many people’s faith in the political process.
There are many questions that have been asked about this organization. When did it start? Where do they meet? Who is funding its activities? How did the group choose its candidates? While the group may have the veneer and trappings of legitimacy, it is clear that it is a pop-up organization shrouded in mystery. It is a group without regularly scheduled public meetings, a PAC with undisclosed financial backing, and an advocacy group with a secret panel of individuals endorsing candidates.
Research available at the http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/ indicates TCTPC started on January 31, 2014, as a General-Purpose Political Committee (GPAC) with Todd Smith of Austin as its Treasurer. There are no financial filings on record as of the date of this writing. An internet website first appeared on April 5, 2014, indicating a desire to get involved and provide a strong local voice for Montgomery County and state politics. A subsequent Facebook account appeared, that advertised an April 25, 2014 fundraiser to benefit specific candidates that it chose to support. However, there were no criteria stated for the group’s selection of supported candidates.
Under TEC rules, a political committee must file pre-election reports if the committee accepts contributions or makes expenditures and had activity in connection with an election. An 8-day pre-election report for the primary runoff was due May 19, 2014. Craig Doyal reported a donation on April 25, 2014, of $1500 to TCTPC on his campaign report submitted on May 19, 2014. With the reported donation, fundraiser, paid distribution of literature, and multiple mailings to voters, it is apparent that TCTPC is in violation of TEC rules and is subject to fines and ongoing penalties.
These reports are intended to clearly reflect the names or organizations contributing to the GPAC and how it is spending those funds and supporting candidates for political office. With its failure to comply with TEC rules, TCTPC is purposely deceiving the voters and giving extra credibility to those labeling it the “fake tea party.”