***Note: This article has been updated with new information post-publication.***
With grassroots conservatives across the state enraged at the prospective appointment of far-left extremist Anne Wynne to the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC), House Speaker Joe Straus is pulling out all the stops to cover his steps and dodge the truth.
Enlisting the aid of Austin media, Straus is claiming that yesterday’s report by Texas Scorecard merely equates to “rumors.”
Through media surrogates, Straus is now claiming that no one has been tapped to replace outgoing TEC commissioner Paul Hobby, and that the search for his replacement has not even begun.
But that narrative is refuted by the records obtained by Texas Scorecard, which include statements by Capitol staff and Wynne herself that assert she was tapped to replace Hobby.
In a May 16th email, Jacob Cottingham, the Legislative Director for State Rep. Donna Howard (D–Austin), told State Rep. Celia Israel’s (D–Austin) chief of staff “I think she’ll be replacing Paul Hobby… Dem. Speaker’s appointment.”
Wynne is even more clear about the plan, telling the staffer: “I am replacing Paul Hobby.”
After Texas Scorecard published its report, one Austin reporter confirmed that Hobby would be resigning from the commission, a fact that had not previously been made public. In another Austin publication, a Straus source was quoted as saying: “Speaker Straus has not formally asked members for their input on who should succeed Hobby on the commission.”
What the Speaker’s office has not been willing to say is that they will not be appointing Anne Wynne to the TEC. She is the subject of controversy after Texas Scorecard reported that she compared the NRA to the terrorist organization ISIS and said she wanted to “dismantle” the pro-2nd Amendment organization.
Despite the fact Hobby’s term expired eight months ago, (as reported by Texas Scorecard in May), Straus is now claiming that he has not “formally” asked members for input on a replacement. However, the emails between Wynne and the two Travis County Democratic offices date back to May 16, 2016.
It is obvious that some informal discussions between Hobby, Straus, the Democrats, and Anne Wynne were taking place in May. In fact, it appears likely from the emails that Straus or his staff directed Wynne to have Howard or Israel recommend her name to his office so that he could proceed in appointing her to the vacancy.
Now that Wynne has been revealed to be an anti-gun extremist who would likely use the power of the TEC to try to “dismantle” the NRA and other conservative groups, one would assume that Straus will no longer be able to move forward with her appointment. But the evidence is clear that Wynne believed she was set to be appointed to the commission and was telling Democratic offices as much in May.
Texans have dodged a bullet for now. They must remain vigilant as Straus moves forward in his appointments to the TEC.
***UPDATE: Shortly after this article was published, the Texas House Republican Caucus issued a press release stating that they have been “reassured by Speaker Joe Straus that an appointment has not been made” and that the vetting of potential candidates has yet to begin.
Despite the fact that Straus has thus far refused to speak publicly on the issue or issue any statement disavowing Wynne’s assertion, the Caucus stated they “have great confidence that Speaker Straus will select the best possible Democrat to serve on the Texas Ethics Commission.”
Texans should remember the words of their Republican lawmakers on this issue.