After being caught preparing to appoint to the Texas Ethics Commission an extreme opponent of the Second Amendment who has called for the dismantling of the National Rifle Association, the Texas House Republican Caucus is claiming that Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus has not yet finalized that appointment.
In an unattributed statement issued late Tuesday afternoon, the caucus noted that unnamed caucus representatives had communicated with unnamed persons in Straus’ office and been assured that Straus has not yet appointed the anti-NRA zealot Anne Wynne to the TEC.
Straus himself has yet to speak publicly about the issue raised this week when our own Cary Cheshire uncovered documents showing that since at least mid-May discussions have taken place between Straus’ office, House Democrats and liberal Austin lawyer Anne Wynne. She claimed she would be replacing Paul Hobby as the speaker’s Democrat appointee to the TEC. (Hobby was forced to resign after we reported that he and other members of the “ethics” commission were serving long past the constitutional term limit on the agency’s board.)
But words are important, and so is silence. While some members of the Texas House GOP caucus are subtly claiming Straus will no longer appoint Wynne, Straus himself has said nothing.
Under law, the appointments to the TEC are split between political parties that hold state administered primaries, but those appointments by the Speaker, Lieutenant Governor, and Governor have no confirmation. There is no recourse for challenging an appointment after it has been made.
The caucus’ own words are telling. The statement was issued anonymously and without attribution. Though State Rep. Tan Parker (R–Flower Mound) is the caucus chairman, neither he nor any other lawmaker is named in the release.
Instead, the statement says:
As a Caucus, we have great confidence Speaker Straus will select the best possible Democrat to serve on the Texas Ethics Commission.
Straus has given conservatives few reasons to trust him… Unfortunately, they know he will always be at war with conservative principles.
During the last legislative session, the Wall Street Journal noted that it was House Speaker Joe Straus who would determine whether conservatives and small business would be successful in fighting back against labor union encroachments in the Lone Star State.
Though the measure passed in the conservative-led Texas Senate, Straus’ coalition of Democrats and establishment Republicans sided with the labor unions, killing a reform measure championed by business groups and the Republican Party itself.
And while Texans have demanded action banning sanctuary cities, Straus and his GOP leadership team have for two sessions worked with the Democrats trying to give state driver permits to illegal aliens.
One mustn’t forget the 2013 legislative session when, despite a GOP near-supermajority, Straus prohibited all pro-life legislation from getting a hearing on the House floor. It took former Gov. Rick Perry calling the legislature into a special session before any House bills moved on the issue.
At the TEC itself, Paul Hobby, a Straus appointee, has worked to chill the First Amendment rights of Texans and claimed the agency was allowed to pick and chose which groups had their “due process” rights observed. (Hobby pushed through unconstitutional agency rules that were explicitly forbidden under law and opposed by both state and federal court rulings.)
A liberal Democrat, Hobby has tightly coordinated his messaging with Straus’ office. More on this in the days to follow.
The GOP caucus says they “have great confidence” in Straus’ ability to pick “the best” Democrat. This should leave Texans wondering what their – and Joe Straus’ – definition of “best” might be. Straus’ record inspires little confidence that his pick will be one who respects the freedoms of speech and political association.
But now, by their unsigned words, the Republican Caucus officially owns that appointee, and the rules and decisions that appointee adopts.