After House Speaker Joe Straus’ plans to appoint a far-left Austin Democrat to the Texas Ethics Commission were spoiled, his sycophantic supporters in the Texas House Republican Caucus came to his defense. But have the promises emanating from the GOP caucus proven true?

In July Texas Scorecard broke news that far-left Austin Democrat Anne Wynne was telling members of the House that Straus was going to appoint her to the Texas Ethics Commission. Wynne is an extremist who has compared the NRA to the terrorist group ISIS, and promised to dismantle the gun rights organization.

After the conservative grassroots lit up the Capitol switchboard over a potential Wynne appointment, she was quickly tossed aside and Straus’s operatives promised a thorough search. As part of his damage control effort, Straus induced the House GOP Caucus to cover for him.

The caucus declared through an unattributed statement that they had “great confidence that Speaker Straus will select the best possible Democrat to serve on the Texas Ethics Commission.”

Unfortunately for Texans’ sake, and for the GOP Caucus’s credibility, Joe Straus did not suddenly find success as a unicorn wrangler.

Instead, this week Straus appointed Steve Wolens to the TEC. Wolens served in the Texas House as a Democrat representing Dallas from 1981 to 2005.

During that time, Wolens had a very liberal voting record and regularly opposed pro-life policies while supporting laws favorable to unions, trial lawyers, and illegal aliens.

Most importantly, Steve Wolens is one of possibly two or three people most responsible for the constitutional disaster that currently exists at the TEC. Wolens crafted legislation in 2003 that vastly expanded the power of the TEC over Texans. The legislation pushed the TEC’s process into secrecy, gave the agency unchecked subpoena power, and lowered its burden of proof.

As a skilled trial lawyer and former law partner of the late Democratic mega-donor Fred Baron, Wolens will bring sharp legal skills and a hostility to conservatives to the commission. Wolens was a frequent obstacle to conservatives in the House and was even praised by liberal commentators for forcing pro-life advocates to water down their legislation in order to move it out of his committee.

Despite espousing “great confidence” at Straus’ behest only months ago, the House Republican Caucus has been conspicuously silent now the appointment has been made. Indeed, GOP Caucus Chairman Tan Parker (R–Flower Mound) has refused repeated requests for comment regarding the appointment.

Parker needs to answer for his statement supporting Straus. Is Steve Wolens really the “best possible Democrat” to put on the TEC?

With Wolens’ record of promoting the power of the TEC over conservatives, Parker can’t honestly endorse him. But Parker is also too committed to Straus to admit his mistake.

With the appointment of Wolens, Straus has signaled that he intends to continue to wage war on the conservative grassroots, and he will continue to use the TEC as a weapon.

Fortunately, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has signaled that he wants a “new direction” at the TEC. In light of Straus’ continued hostility to our Bill of Rights, it is critical that Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott use their appointments to put true reformers on the commission.

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.