On Saturday we received news straight from the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up file. Empower Texans PAC employee Gregory Harrison informed us that he and a Cullen Crisp for State Representative campaign manager, Justin Newman, were being “tailed” around Cisco, Texas, by what he described as “goons in an SUV.” The pair had been block-walking in support of Crisp in the area.

Tailed in Cisco

Greg and Justin did the smart thing and called the license plate number on the SUV in to the police.

We were shocked to find out that the vehicle came back as being registered to Ryan Ash, the Manager of Communications at the Texas Taxpayers & Research Association. Ash is apparently the younger brother of Ky Ash, Jim Keffer’s longtime Chief of Staff.

Aside from simply being bizarre, this revelation blows holes in the credibility of both the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association and Jim Keffer’s campaign. Keffer and other liberal politicians have been relying heavily on statements and studies put out by TTRA to claim that conservatives – ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, tea party groups, and even us at Texans for Fiscal Responsibility – have been lying about the growth of government during the most recent legislative session. Using TTRA studies and a misleading and useless LBB report, Keffer has audaciously claimed that spending is down 11.5%. We have already ripped that claim to shreds in a presentation published last October.

Keffer’s campaign has called the TTRA a “leading taxpayer advocacy group,” implying that the group is an independent voice.  But Ash’s presence in District 60 shows that the TTRA is incestuously related to Jim Keffer and his organization. The group’s credibility is even further damaged when one reviews a list of their Board of Directors. The Board is populated exclusively by lobbyists and other large corporate representatives.

References to the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association have been side-by-side in Keffer mailers with attacks on Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. In the mailers, Keffer accuses us of supporting a secret agenda to raise taxes on food and medicine by 25%. To support that claim, Keffer points to www.TexasTaxTruth.com, a website and study that was paid for by his own campaign.

The claim that TFR secretly wants to raise taxes, besides being ridiculous and illogical, can be easily refuted. Last session, TFR’s President, Michael Quinn Sullivan, and Executive Director, Dustin Matocha, both registered in support of HJR 74, legislation which would have prevented any further taxation of food and medicine.

But ironically, Dale Craymer, President of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, testified against that bill.

This entire episode reveals that both the Jim Keffer Campaign and the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association have serious credibility issues. Like the Texas Conservative Roundtable and other front groups we have exposed, it appears that the TTRA is nothing more than a façade for big business interests and moderate, tax-and-spend politicians like Jim Keffer.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.


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