With the 84th Legislative Session in the history books, lawmakers are returning to their districts to kick off their re-election campaigns. But they know conservative voters demand results, so many Republican lawmakers are showing off various awards as proof of their conviction and willingness to fight for taxpayers.
All Republican lawmakers like to boast during reelection of having a “strong conservative voting record” and some of them do. Lawmakers scoring an “A” (90 or above) on the Fiscal Responsibility Index are recognized as Taxpayer Champions because of their record voting in favor of taxpayers. A record 24 Texas lawmakers earned that distinction this session.
But like patting their own backs, some Republican lawmakers who can’t boast of strong ratings from conservative groups have created their own awards.
For example, State Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) is boasting to constituents that he has been honored as a “Courageous Conservative” for his voting record by the Texas Conservative Coalition (TCC). But as Simmons told his constituents, “In order to properly evaluate the scorecards themselves, I encourage you to educate yourself on the organization issuing the scorecard.”
Simmons is most well known for championing bipartisan “Purple Tie Thursdays” during his freshman session. The event encouraged House Republicans to wear purple ties as a symbol of unity with House Democrats.
Far from being a grassroots organization, the TCC is actually a caucus comprised exclusively of sitting members of the Texas legislature. The group is a mixed bag of Republicans. While the organization includes a few members whose conservative conviction is without question, such as State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving), most TCC members hail from the middle of the House GOP caucus. Liberal and moderate Republicans are members, as well.
The TCC’s leadership is decidedly more liberal than the body it purports to represent. The entire membership of the TCC averages a 76 on the Fiscal Responsibility Index. When the average is limited to the TCC’s Board of Directors, it declines to 70.6, and when it is limited to just the officers, it sinks even lower to a 68.8.
In fact the chairman of the organization, State Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria), has been a consistent disappointment for taxpayers and carries a career score of C- on the Index. This session, Morrison earned a pitiful 58 and was amongst the bottom ten Republican legislators.
Texans should rightly question the credibility of any group of politicians, especially those with questionable conservative bona fides, awarding other legislators for “courage.” Indeed, Simmons’ “courageous conservative” award goes from dubious to flat-out shameless when one learns that Simmons is himself a TCC board member. Perhaps Simmons got the idea for his award from an episode of The Office.
However, the chest thumping doesn’t end there, in an email to constituents, Simmons also bragged of another ranking:
“In addition to being named a “Courageous Conservative” by the TCC, I am pleased to inform you that I was listed in the top 21% of conservative legislators by Professor Mark Jones of Rice University.”
Yet according to Jones’ study, Simmons didn’t score in the top 21% of conservative legislators but rather the top 21% of all legislators. Establishment Republicans have gotten pretty careless about throwing around the label “conservative” but we didn’t think the problem had gotten so bad that even the liberal Democrats were included.
In fact, when you remove the Democrats, who make no claims of “conservatism,” and constrain the sample to his fellow Republicans the results are far different. Simmons was only in the “top 32%” of Republican legislators. Only in politics would an individual brag that 30 of his 97 other colleagues are rated more conservative than him.
Considered one of the more conservative members last legislative session, Simmons spurned his conservative colleagues and joined the coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans in supporting House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio). A junior partner of the coalition, Simmons voted to increase his own office budget, continue crony capitalist handouts to special interests, and extend welfare benefits to felons.
Texans are right to question the bona fides their representatives boast about – especially ones they create themselves. Texans should look to their lawmakers’ voting records, not the vague accolades of an organization of their own design.