In the final weeks before early voting, a bright yellow postcard landed in the mailboxes of Fort Worth residents in Texas House District 99.
It looks like an official government warning from an official government agency calling itself the Texas Ethics Disclosure Board.
Big bold letters at the top state:
NOTICE OF RELATIONSHIP WITH REGISTERED LOBBYIST.
It then implies that Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth has violated some policy by not disclosing his relationship with a well-connected corporate lobbyist, who happens to be his wife.
Recipients might think the Texas Ethics Disclosure Board is a state agency, but it isn’t. It’s a phony name the hard-right political action committee Empower Texans made up and registered with the Texas Secretary of State. Empower Texans is hiding behind the name in attack ads against Geren while it heavily funds his opponent, Bo French, in the Republican primary.
The mailer is just one example of misleading and outright false claims Empower Texans has made in its effort to dethrone Republicans who have worked with House Speaker Joe Straus and other business-friendly GOP.
Empower Texans and its uber-wealthy backers have every right to financially support candidates who agree with their agenda, which includes school vouchers; further restricting the amount of property taxes local governments can collect to pay for services; and prohibiting communities from offering tax incentives to attract and expand businesses.
But the public has the right to know the facts and who is behind the information.
In Texas House District 98, state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake has also been wrongly targeted by an Empower Texans group supporting his opponent, Armin Mizani. Capriglione, another business-friendly Republican, has had to enlist Texas Alliance for Life, an established anti-abortion group, to confirm that his voting record is strongly anti-abortion.
Then there are the letters warning that some GOP House members voted for a tax on the elderly, a “granny tax.” As we recently explained, the legislation would have created a matching fund that would have brought $850 million in federal funding back to Texas for use in nursing homes. But the bill expressly prohibited passing on expenses to elderly patients.
In other words, claims of a granny tax just aren’t true. We contacted Empower Texans for a response but haven’t gotten one.
We know it’s difficult to sort fact from fiction when bombarded with political mail, advertising and robocalls, but we urge voters to do a little homework.
A quick online search of the sender and a check of financial contributions on the Texas Ethics Commission website can be telling. The League of Women Voters of Texas and some media organizations have produced nonpartisan voter guides with credible information. The Star-Telegram has compiled a list of stories, editorial recommendations and videotaped candidate interviews to help.
Voters have a right to demand the facts and reject claims that come from groups hiding behind deceptive identities, sending out misleading notices on yellow cards.