I did not think the 84th session of the Texas Legislature could get any worse.
Then it did.
Yesterday (Tuesday, Feb. 4), Sen. Konni Burton, a Colleyville Republican, filed S.B. No. 440, which says that “a county or municipality may not prohibit hydraulic fracturing treatment of oil or gas wells.”
The bill presumably targets the controversial hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as “fracing”) ban approved by Denton voters in November.
Meanwhile Sen. Don Huffines, a Dallas Republican, filed S.B. 343 last month, a bill that would overturn local ordinances protecting LGBT people, including those in all of Texas’ major cities.
An action alert sent by Equality Texas called Huffines’ bill harmful.
“SB 343 would restrict the ability of local elected officials to pass or enforce ordinances, rules or regulations that are not identical to state protections, restricting local governments to only protecting the attributes covered under state law: race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin,” according to the group.
Bully, buy and win
Burton’s bill coincidentally would help some of her biggest donors: West Texas oil barons Tim and Michael Dunn for example. As with Burton, the notoriously anti-LGBT brothers also backed Huffines in his successful primary race against John Carona. With a handful of other wealthy, far-right donors spread across Texas, they funnel money through ethically-challenged 501(c)4 dark money groups like Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.
Headed by the ruthless, gin-nosed Michael Quinn Sullivan, a former Ron Paul spokesperson who makes House of Cards‘ Frank Underwood look like the Dalai Lama, they bully and intimidate legislators through their main website and other entities like AgendaWise. These harbingers of freedom and limited government use a score card called the Fiscal Responsibility Index to rank legislators on a 0-100 scale. The score card is supposed to keep legislators accountable to whatever cause they heard about on Alex Jones radio show (or perhaps through Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s former radio show).
If a legislator strays from their issues — everything from tax increases to opposing charter schools or “school choice”— they prop up whomever they can find to challenge Republicans from the right. Huffines is one example. The senator ousted longtime incumbent Carona in a bitter primary by running to his right, including on LGBT issues.
When it’s convenient they’ll include meaty social issues appealing to grassroots Republican voters, like abortion and same-sex marriage. Other far right scorecard keepers, like Texas Right to Life, Texas Eagle Forum, Texas Home School Coalition and the latest entrant, Texas Values, are all more or less convenient pawns for the Dunns.
Which is why billionaire fracing brothers Dan and Farris Wilks pumped more money into Burton’s campaign than any other state race combined last year. (I’ll get into them in a future post.)
Like with Underwood, however, it doesn’t matter whom you manipulate or destroy, as long as it gets you what you want.
Money will save the day
Liberty is about the freedom to choose as much as it is the freedom to fuck up.
Take Rep. Molly White, R-
her church Belton. White ousted Ralph Sheffield, a three term member of the Texas House, in one of the biggest electoral upsets of the March 2014 primaries. When I interviewed him for another story a few months ago, he described her as a single-issue candidate: she’s anti-abortion “but she’s had of [two] of ’em,” he said.
While other Dunn-backed freshman legislators have garnered more attention, such as Arlington’s Rep. Tony Tinderholt, White was hardly a late-blooming loon. Last week she made a name for herself when on Texas Capitol Muslim Day, an event similar to an Equality Texas’ upcoming action days, she wrote on Facebook she left an Israeli flag with her office staff and asked visiting Muslims “to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office.” The move was later condemned by a variety of legislators and groups, including Speaker Joe Straus and the Anti-Defamation League of Texas.
When asked by the Texas Tribune about her comments, White said she was, in fact, wary of the Texas chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations. She called them a terrorist group. And big surprise: she’s also very unfriendly to the LGBT community. CAIR Texas has filed an ethics complaint against White.
Despite backing her, Empower Texans PAC and other have remained mum. But why waste their breath? Their money should assure White will be re-elected as many times as she wants.
Voters may have voted for Burton, Huffines and White. But a small group of ideologues, in fact, propped up them and countless others who now represent you locally and statewide.
The Dunns’ legislative puppets claim they promote the dictionary definition of liberty (“freedom from control”).
Liberty, but not for you.