Why TLR Won’t Let Bryan Hughes Become Speaker

Much has been said by various grassroots conservatives about the ongoing race for Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives between incumbent Joe Straus and his challenger Bryan Hughes. While many conservative activists are rallying behind Hughes, they will likely face insurmountable opposition from the powerful lobby group Texans For Lawsuit Reform.

Allies of TLR and Straus have already begun to attempt to highlight Hughes’ work as a trial lawyer- the sworn enemies of TLR- in an attempt to smear Hughes and question his conservative credentials. While TLR may claim neutrality in the Speaker’s race, such claims should be viewed with great skepticism. Recent comments from TLR’s spokeswoman indicate their contempt for Rep. Hughes and his profession, while at the same time praising Speaker Straus and his support for TLR’s agenda.

During the last legislative session, TLR worked hand in hand with Speaker Straus’ senior staff to pass a legislative redistricting map that was opposed by various conservative organizations and activists, including a number who support Rep. Hughes’ campaign for Speaker. TLR’s President, longtime Democratic activist and fundraiser Dick Trabulsi, made it very clear to Straus’ top aides that TLR was interested in coordinating a messaging campaign in support of their favored redistricting map and that they were advising legislators to “put all their eggs” in the redistricting proposal favored by TLR and opposed by several “TEA Party” groups. 

TLR has a long history of attacking Rep. Hughes and supporting Speaker Straus. Since his election to the Texas House in 2005, TLR has contributed over $65,000 to Speaker Straus. On the other hand, TLR has only made two contributions to Rep. Hughes for a total of $3,000- a paltry sum by TLR’s standards. The most recent of those contributions was made in 2004. Since that time, TLR has attacked Rep. Hughes on a number of occasions.

Even more telling of TLR’s attitude towards Rep. Hughes was their decision not to endorse him in the most recent Republican primary. Hughes was one of just two incumbent House Republicans facing a primary challenge from a non-legislator who was not endorsed by TLR in the last Republican primary. TLR not only endorsed Speaker Straus in his contested primary race this election cycle, but contributed to his campaign and hosted an event honoring him. 

TLR’s history of attacking Rep. Hughes goes back to at least 2006 when a TLR front group calling itself “Texans For Texas” published an inflammatory mailer called “Texas Shark Watch” that attacked Rep. Hughes and other conservative Republican legislators. In 2008, after Texans For Individual Rights Discovered that TLR had given $75,000 to “Texans For Texas”, the conservative newsletter The Lone Star Report asked the executive director of Texans For Texas, Janelle Shepard, what TLR’s contributions were for. Shepard stated that Texas Shark Watch “was exactly” what TLR’s funding was for. TLR’s spokeswoman then tried to cover up TLR’s involvement in “Shark Watch.”

TLR again attacked Rep. Hughes after the 2009 legislative session as a result of his support of two commonsense bills opposed by TLR. One of these bills, the “Entergy” bill, would have overturned an activist decision by the Texas Supreme Court. The other bill, the “paid or incurred bill”, would have protected the right of an injured person to collect the full value of their medical bills in a lawsuit or settlement.

Rep. Hughes’ support of these bills resulted in TLR publishing literature that accused him of supporting a “trial lawyer agenda.” In an article published by the Tyler Morning Telegraph entitled “Rep. Hughes Denies Being Liberal”, Hughes countered the attacks on him by TLR and stated that TLR’s literature did not accurately characterize the bills in question that he supported.

In addition to supporting the “Entergy” and “Paid or Incurred” bills against TLR’s wishes during the 2009 session, Hughes was also the lone Republican vote against final passage of the original House version of HB 274 during the last legislative session.  HB 274 was TLR’s top legislative priority during the last legislative session and the version opposed by Rep. Hughes would have had a devastating impact on the Constitutional rights of average Texans. Rep. Hughes later voted for the final version of HB 274, which removed the most onerous provisions of the original TLR-backed bill.

No Republican member of the Texas House has done more to oppose to Texans For Lawsuit Reform’s special interest agenda than Bryan Hughes has. While Rep. Hughes enjoys considerable support from grassroots conservative activists, they do not get to vote for Speaker. TLR has far too much power and influence at the Capitol to allow a member who has bucked their agenda on so many occasions, as Rep. Hughes has done, to ascend to the Speakership.

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The Mark McCaig Show for 11/18/2012: Communicating Conservatism

This week on the Mark McCaig show, Mark discussed the latest “crony capitalism” scandal in Texas involving the use of money designated for cancer research going to give Solyndra-style handouts to entities tied to political donors. Later, Mark was joined by Vinny Minchillo, a political advertising consultant who was a member of the Romney campaign’s creative team, who talked about what goes into crafting political advertising and lessons learned from the campaign on how conservatives can more effectively communicate their message.

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The Mark McCaig Show for 11/11/12: Election 2012 Recap

On a special post-election edition of the Mark McCaig show, Mark visited with Congressman-elect Steve Stockman about the problems economic difficulties facing America and how conservatives can engage. Later, Mark was joined by local conservative activist Ed Hubbard who discussed constructive ways conservatives can remain involved and effectively communicate their ideas in a post-election environment.

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TXIR Challenges TLR To Come Clean On Redistricting Activities

Texans For Individual Rights (TXIR) today challenged Texans For Lawsuit Reform to come clean with the public regarding its involvement in the redistricting process during the last legislative session. This challenge comes in light of the public release of an e-mail sent by TLR’s President Dick Trabulsi to senior members of Speaker Joe Straus’ staff indicating significant involvement by TLR and individuals closely associated with TLR in the mapmaking process as well as in leading a public relations campaign to defend the TLR-favored map from criticism by “Tea Party” groups and others that had expressed concerns with the map.

Since the launch of our #StopTLR project, we have given Texas conservatives considerable evidence that the activities of the special interest group Texans For Lawsuit Reform serve to undermine conservative values in our state. Despite statements from TLR and its surrogates that they are a single issue group concerned only with civil justice issues, we have long insisted otherwise. This e-mail from Mr. Trabulsi, a longtime Democratic supporter and fundraiser, showing his and TLR’s involvement in redistricting is very troubling and provides yet more evidence that TLR’s tentacles reach far beyond civil justice issues into other areas of public policy. This e-mail also further demonstrates how TLR actively works against “Tea Party” groups and other grassroots conservatives

We challenge Mr. Trabulsi and TLR to come clean with the public and let Texas conservatives know exactly what role TLR and TLR’s leaders, employees, and associates played in the redistricting process and what specific activities they undertook to draw and advocate for or against redistricting maps. We also call on TLR to let Texas conservatives know what other legislation or areas of public policy they were involved with, as it is now documented that TLR’s claims to be a single issue group are not truthful.

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TLR Costs Republicans a Texas Senate Supermajority

Political observers across Texas widely recognized the battle for State Senate District 10  between incumbent Democrat State Senator Wendy Davis and Republican challenger Dr. Mark Shelton (a current State Representative) as the highest priority race in the state for Republicans and Democrats alike. Despite the district being drawn to favor a Republican candidate, Sen. Davis defeated Dr. Shelton by over 6,000 votes. Had Shelton won the race, as he was expected to do, Republicans would have held a 20-10 supermajority going into the upcoming legislative session. There is currently one vacancy in the State Senate, the seat formerly held by the late Sen. Mario Gallegos (D-Houston) which will be filled in a special election.

One of the main reasons given for Sen. Davis’ upset victory over Dr. Shelton is the involvement of the special interest group Texans For Lawsuit Reform on behalf of. Dr. Shelton. TLR was by far Shelton’s largest donor, giving his campaign over $750,000 in the general election. While we credit TLR, which has donated over $3 million to Democrats in recent years and worked to defeat Republicans in other races in this election, for supporting the more conservative candidate in this race, the fact remains that TLR’s extraordinary involvement in this race became a fatal liability to Dr. Shelton’s campaign. The Davis campaign was able to successfully siphon off votes from Republicans and right-leaning independents who were concerned that Shelton would be beholden to TLR and its special interest agenda had he been elected. These are voters who would have likely voted for Shelton had TLR not played such an active and visible role in the race.

TLR’s involvement on behalf of Dr. Shelton also appears to have cost him the votes of some women. One of the narratives pushed by the Davis campaign was that Dr. Shelton was not sensitive to the needs of rape victims. While these and similar accusations that Dr. Shelton was part of some kind of “war on women” were totally baseless, TLR’s actions  during the campaign only lent credibility to these attacks. This is due to TLR’s decision to hire controversial lobbyist Lee Parsley to perform legal services on behalf of the Shelton campaign at a cost of over $10,000.

Parsley, then the President and General Counsel of the Texas Civil Justice League, was a central figure in the “legislative porn” scandal during the last legislative session. On Parsley’s watch, the Texas Civil Justice League published an offensive flyer which was condemned on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives by female legislators from both parties. Parsley was forced to resign from his job with the Texas Civil Justice League in wake of the scandal and is now a registered lobbyist for Texans For Lawsuit Reform. TLR’s decision to hire such a reviled figure as Parsley to work on behalf of Shelton’s campaign, especially in light of his history and the “war on women” attacks from the Davis campaign, was particularly foolish and played right into the hands of Davis and the liberal activist groups that supported her campaign.

The failure of Dr. Shelton to win this election, which by all accounts he should have won, should serve as a warning to future candidates in competitive districts that support from TLR can cause more harm than help to their campaigns. Conservative candidates should stick to core limited government principles and serve the best interests of their districts and resist the temptation of big campaign dollars from special interest groups like TLR that could very well spell doom for their campaigns, just as it did for Dr. Shelton’s bid to become a State Senator.

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TLR Throws Even More Money At Democrats

A new round of campaign finance reports have been released by the Texas Ethics Commission and it comes as no surprise that the special interest group Texans For Lawsuit Reform is continuing to contribute tens of thousands of dollars to liberal Democrats in the general election who are opposed by conservative Republicans. In particular, TLR contributed another $20,000 to Democrat State Representative Ryan Guillen in just the past couple of weeks.

TLR portrays itself as a conservative organization and tries to convince grassroots conservatives that it supports conservative values. However, TLR has donated over $3 million to Democrats over the years. TLR’s President Dick Trabulsi (who was paid $7,333.34 by TLR on its most recent campaign finance report) is a longtime Democratic activist who helped lead Jimmy Carter’s campaign in Texas and contributed to Walter Mondale’s campaign against Ronald Reagan. Trabulsi’s nephew, Mark Strama, is a liberal Austin legislator who was one of Barack Obama’s earliest supporters in Texas (Strama has also received significant financial contributions in the past from TLR).

TLR’s actions this election cycle provide further proof that they are enemies, not friends, of conservatism in Texas.

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The Mark McCaig Show for 10/28/12: TLR Is Working To Defeat Republicans Yet Again

This week on the Mark McCaig show, Mark discussed a number of topics in the news relating to the upcoming elections. Mark also discussed how the special interest group Texans For Lawsuit Reform is yet again spending tens of thousands of dollars to defeat conservative Republican candidates in the General Election.

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