GOP Primary Endorsement Scandal: Young Conservatives of Texas Accused of Pay-for-Play

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Beware what you find in your mailbox. David Jennings of BigJollyPolitics.com reports that GOP endorsements are coming at a pretty hefty price, in some cases $50,000+.  Jennings also reports that YCT endorsements apparently come at are a more reasonable of $7,000 each.

BigJollyPolitics reports Pay-for-Play
BigJollyPolitics reports Pay-for-Play

LH Editor’s Note: In the last few days there have been stories swirling of a scandal erupting around GOP endorsements by groups with very official authoritative sounding names, and by some like Young Conservatives of Texas who once had solid reputations. Now reputations are at stake.

David Jennings of BigJollyPolitics.com broke the story originally. Below we’re re-publishing Jennings’ article on the YCT Pay-for-Play, with links to additional articles.

In short, all voters should be aware that many of the slick-sounding endorsement mailers that are hitting your mailbox or email inbox have been bought and paid for.

Before we jump into the articles, let’s take a look at the YCT Slate for some of the statewide offices.

Lt. Governor – Sen. Dan Patrick
Attorney General – Sen. Ken Paxton
Comptroller – Sen. Glenn Hegar
Ag. Commissioner – Hon. Sid Miller
Railroad Commissioner – Hon. Wayne Christian
SCOTX Pl. 1 – Nathan Hecht (Chief Justice)
SCOTX Pl. 6 – Jeff Brown
SCOTX Pl. 8 – Phil Johnson

Among this list, only Ken Paxton has not been identified as one of the pay-to-play politicians.

Heidi Thiess at RagingElephantsRadio.com is also working on the story.  You can listen with her tomorrow from Noon-2:00 p.m, and Apostle Claver from 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.

By David Jennings, Big Jolly Politics

The Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) has entered the world of pay-to-play politics. Hey, they might as well, everyone else is. Still, it is sad to see this group go down that road. But it does explain some things. Here are there contributors, amounts and dates deposited:

Empower Texans PAC:  $12,000,  1/22/2014
Glenn Hegar Campaign:  $ 7,000,  1/22/2014
Justice Phil Johnson for Supreme Court:  $ 7,000,  1/17/2014
Sid Miller Campaign:  $ 7,000,  1/14/2014
Texans for Dan Patrick:  $ 7,000,  1/14/2014
Wayne Christian for Texas:  $ 7,000,  1/14/2014
Jeff Brown Campaign:  $ 7,000,  1/23/2014
Chief Justice Nathan Hecht Campaign:  $ 7,000, 1/22/2014

They might want to change their name to Young Social Conservatives of Texas after reading that list. It explains why they were handing out slate cards at the Tarrant County Straw Poll last weekend. Notice that their slate of candidates won their respective polls.

And it also explains the YCT attack on Jerry Patterson last week that Patterson attributed to the Dan Patrick campaign. Yep.

Interesting that these candidates would affiliate themselves with a group that tried to hold a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” day at the University of Texas. But if you look at the candidates’ rhetoric on illegal immigration, I suppose it makes sense.

Thanks to an observant reader, there are two additional pay-to-play candidates on the YCT slate. They are Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court Nathan Hecht and Justice Jeff Brown. I have updated the table to include their contributions – they paid the same $7,000 that the other candidates paid.

The contributions are on Justice Hecht’s 30 day campaign finance report and on Justice Brown’s report for the same period. I have left a message for YCT Executive Director Jenna White to find out why the YCT did not include them on their report. This brings the total amount YCT received for their slate to $61,000.

I received a call back from Jeff Morris, current Chairman of the YCT. He explained that although the YCT knew that the two checks in question were coming, they did not arrive before the reporting period ended and thus were not on the report. They will be included on the 8 day out report.

Morris also took exception to my characterization of their slate as pay-to-play. He told me that the group had endorsed the candidates months before taking the money and were simply trying to help their endorsed candidates win.

Mark McCaig at StopTLR finds a legal problem with the donations to the YCT by three sitting Texas Supreme Court Justices:

Campaign finance reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission earlier this week by the campaigns of Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht and Justices Jeff Brown and Phil Johnson reflect expenditures by each campaign that may be in violation of Texas campaign finance laws. The Hecht, Brown, and Johnson campaigns each reported a $7,000 contribution to the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) Political Action Committee.

According to areport by blogger David Jennings of BigJollyPolitics.com, the contributions to the YCT PAC are for the purpose of subsidizing an “endorsement slate” mailer by the organization.

These contributions to the YCT PAC appear to be in violation of a state law. Section 253.1611(b) of the Texas Election Code states:
“A judicial candidate or a specific-purpose committee for supporting or opposing a judicial candidate may not use a political contribution to knowingly make political contributions to a political committee in connection with a primary election.”

Do candidates not understand that there are lots and lots and lots of eyes on them in this age of transparency and crowd-sourced information?

More from BigJollyPolitics.com

Rep. Patricia Harless enters fray in HD132, pay-to-play

Barry Smitherman and Conservative Republicans of Texas PAC, Terry Lowry and Link Letter

Harris County GOP PAC Pay-to-Play Slate – Dewhurst, Hegar, Branch

4 Responses to GOP Primary Endorsement Scandal: Young Conservatives of Texas Accused of Pay-for-Play

  1. Michael Openshaw February 6, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Absolutely laughable. Pay for play involves paying FIRST, then getting an endorsement. In all of these cases, payments were made toward MAILINGS of the results many months AFTERWARD. This is nOT pay-for-play!
    As for the Judicial candidates, if those contributions ARE used in the Primary effort, the CANDIDATES might have an issue. If the contributions were made under the condition that they went to GENERAL election efforts, even those are fine. YCT does a LOT of things beyond the primary endorsements. I would have advised the judicial candidates to HOLD the contributions until AFTER the primary, however.
    Bottom line: the scorecards and endorsements based on the RECORDS of officeholders are doing real damage to the ‘Powers-That-Be’ So the mud begins to sling.

  2. Sam Brannon February 6, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Thank you for the comment, Mr. Openshaw.

    Empower Texans has rated Hegar lowest among the candidates, then endorsed him. Then they wrote a fat check to YCT, and according to Heidi Theiss, YCT has admitted they simply followed Empower Texans lead for their endorsements. The story is still being investigated, and I suspect more will be coming. I do respect your input, but it can’t be written off so easily in Big Money Texas Politics.

    A candidates association with such an endorsement doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t Conservative, or that they are not good candidates. It likely does mean that they will draw additional scrutiny. Theiss also reported today that Hegar denied having given any money to YCT or Empower Texans – she has it on audio.

  3. Karen Stinson February 6, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    The YCT/UT Web page says it’s a “political student group rooted in conservative principles.”

    Embarrassing if pay for play is involved. Grade: F in ethics.

  4. Sam Brannon February 6, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks for reading, Karen, and for the comment. As you know, there are a lot of ethically-challenged political operations underway, but it is sad to see it at such young ages.

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