At the start of the 84th legislative session, liberal Republican House Speaker Joe Straus engaged in a lame attack on Empower Texans, decrying organizations that produce “scorecards” as a mechanism of informing voters about the difference between politicians’ campaign rhetoric and voting records.

Shamelessness being Straus’s strongest attribute, he neglected to point out that he has long fostered a phony organization, “Texas Conservative Roundtable,” which issues a contrived scorecard after each session. The organization claims to operate out of an address near the capitol, but a closer inspection reveals that the group is run exclusively out of a UPS Store mailbox a block away from the office of Straus’s political consultant.

TCR’s scorecard biennially attempts to flip reality on its head by painting liberal Republicans as conservative champions and conservative legislators as liberal heels.

Despite Straus’s attacks on “scorecards,” this session was no different. Last month Texas Conservative Roundtable released its re-branded “Conservative Effectiveness Index.” The project attempts to tap-in to a lame campaign mantra that legislators close to Straus are “effective” because they are allowed to pass token legislation—while those legislators who force Straus’s hand on major conservative reforms are not effective simply because they are not allowed to officially stamp their name on their accomplishments.

No surprise, the index awards most Republican members an A or B, reserving C’s and D’s for the most conservative members of the House. Any member scoring an A or B is labeled a “2015 Effective Conservative Lawmaker.

However, the index conveniently left House Democrats out of its mix.

By looking at the votes scored, we were able to rate the House Democrats on the Texas Conservative Roundtable Index and the results are nothing short of hilarious.

In order to give A’s to liberal Republicans like Byron Cook and Jason Villalba, the operatives behind Texas Conservative Roundtable were forced to give B’s to two-thirds of the House Democratic Caucus. In fact, three Democrats – Ryan Guillen (Rio Grande City), Ruth Jones McClendon (San Antonio), and Joe Pickett (El Paso) – would have earned A’s on the Conservative Effectiveness Index if they had been included. Rafael Anchia (D–Dallas) would have been the lowest scoring Democrat with a rating of 73 – even though the group gave D’s to the most conservative Republicans.

Apparently Straus and his handlers consider the majority of Democrats to be “effective conservative lawmakers,” but think taxpayer champions like Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) and Matt Rinaldi (R–Irving) are not.

The operatives behind Texas Conservative Roundtable got to their result by largely using a mix of unanimous non-controversial votes and votes traditionally scored in the opposite way by conservative groups. For example, the group positively scored a vote for liberal Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, positively scored a vote to unconstitutionally expand the Major Events Trust Fund, and negatively scored a vote to limit municipalities’ power to annex.

This is but the latest example of incompetence and hypocrisy from Straus’s coalition. When voters see their representative touting their endorsement as a “2015 Effective Conservative Lawmaker” this primary season, they should know their representative endorses Joe Straus’s incompetence and hypocrisy. They should also know their representative has a voting record that is, fundamentally, no different from a majority of democrats.

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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