In 2004, voters in the City of Houston supported “Proposition 2”, a pro-taxpayer ballot referendum to cap city revenues. In a piece written shortly before Proposition 2 was voted on, prominent taxpayer advocate Bob Lemer wrote a piece in support of the referendum, comparing it to a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” passed in Colorado in 1992 that resulted in significant benefits to that state’s economy.
Long story short- the powers that be at Houston City Hall did everything in their power to thwart the will of the voters that supported Proposition 2. This resulted in a group of concerned citizens having to sue the liberal city leadership and fight a battle at the courthouse on behalf of Houston taxpayers.
The legal battle lasted several years and ended up at the Texas Supreme Court. Finally, in 2011, the Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling. In a unanimous opinion (with one Justice not participating), the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City of Houston and dismissed the lawsuit brought by the concerned citizens.
One might think the sort of pro-taxpayer advocacy engaged in by the supporters of “Proposition 2” would be right up the alley of the Austin advocacy group “Texans For Fiscal Responsibility” (also known as “Empower Texans”). However, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Texas elects its Supreme Court and two of the Justices that ruled against taxpayers in the “Proposition 2” lawsuit are up for re-election in 2014. Texans For Fiscal Responsibility, like many organizations, has announced a slate of endorsements in the 2014 primaries. On their website, Texans For Fiscal Responsibility states that “we will only consider endorsing candidates who return a signed questionnaire.” Indeed, their website features candidate questionnaires for a number of state offices on the ballot in 2014- but not for Texas Supreme Court.
Despite not publishing a candidate questionnaire for Texas Supreme Court candidates, Texans For Fiscal Responsibility just announced their endorsement of three incumbent Texas Supreme Court Justices- including two that against the taxpayer advocates. Even more curious is that when we reached out to representatives of two of the challengers to the endorsed Supreme Court Justices, they stated that they had never been asked by Texans For Fiscal Responsibility to fill out a candidate questionnaire or interview with their organization.
This raises several important questions. Did the Texas Supreme Court Justices who were endorsed by Texans For Fiscal Responsibility fill out a candidate questionnaire, which they claim is a prerequisite to receiving their endorsement? If so, was the candidate questionnaire made available to all candidates for Texas Supreme Court?
While “Texans For Fiscal Responsibility” positions itself as a grassroots conservative organization, they have engaged in some activity that is indicative of ties to the Texas political establishment. They should be open and transparent about the process they used to endorse candidates for the Texas Supreme Court and whether the process was fair and open to all candidates. Unfortunately, all signs point to their endorsements being a farce designed to benefit the incumbent Justices- even those with a proven record of ruling against taxpayers.
We will update this post with any new developments on this matter.
UPDATE: After our original post on this subject, Texans For Fiscal Responsibility altered their website to say that they only consider endorsing “candidates for legislative and executive office who return a signed questionnaire.” Now that it appears the Supreme Court incumbents they endorsed were indeed shown special treatment over other candidates for office, Texans For Fiscal Responsibility should explain to the public why these candidates were shown favoritism. Texans For Fiscal Responsibility should also say whether or not the challengers to the Supreme Court incumbents were given any opportunity to seek their endorsement.
We captured the candidate questionnaire section of their website before it was altered. You can view Texans For Fiscal Responsibility’s original standards for endorsements here.