Though the Texas House Speaker has refused to speak publicly in regard to the potential appointment of a far-left extremist who compared law-abiding gun owners to terrorists, he may now be considering an even worse candidate for the position.
In the wake of the outrage over Speaker Joe Straus’s apparent plan to appoint the anti-gun zealot Anne Wynne as a speech regulator, the San Antonio Republican enlisted the Texas House Republican Caucus to help him distance himself from Wynne’s controversial statements. Perhaps because no lawmaker wanted to put their personal reputation behind the claim, the caucus released an unattributed statement defending Straus.
“As a Caucus, we have great confidence Speaker Straus will select the best possible Democrat to serve on the Texas Ethics Commission.”
But who is the “best possible Democrat?” And where does Straus intend to wrangle such a unicorn?
Though Straus has stated through a spokesman that a formal application process is yet to begin, records obtained from his office by Texas Scorecard reveal that at least one more individual has been recommended for appointment— Democrat Chris Bell.
Texans will remember Chris Bell for his failed gubernatorial campaign against Gov. Rick Perry in 2006. Bell lost the race by a large margin, and afterward sought Perry’s support in obtaining a lobbying job in DC. When Perry refused, Bell launched a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Perry and the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) alleging that they had violated campaign finance laws.
Though Bell extracted an early legal settlement from Rick Perry, who was preparing to launch a presidential campaign, the RGA refused to give in to Bell’s demands. After eight years of litigation, Bell lost and was ordered to pay $300,000 to the RGA before ultimately settling with the organization.
It wasn’t the first time Bell tried to use the law to penalize his political opponents only to lose years later—in fact, Bell had already used the same strategy before.
After losing re-election to Congress in 2004, Bell filed complaints against U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) accusing him of money laundering and violating campaign finance laws. The charges began a decade-long ordeal for DeLay who was forced to resign from Congress and spend more than $10 million defending himself from being sentenced to prison. Though the legal battle took over ten years, DeLay was ultimately vindicated and found innocent of all charges.
But rather than feel remorseful, Bell brags about initiating complaints against DeLay on his resume.
As far as candidates for the Texas Ethics Commission go, Chris Bell is perhaps the “worst possible Democrat” that Straus could appoint given his record of using the courts in an attempt to destroy the lives of his political opponents.
It is outrageous that Chris Bell is even being considered for a post he could use to criminalize conservatives and restrict their First Amendment rights.
There is no reason that Democrats like Bell, who hold views hostile to citizens’ constitutional liberties, should be entitled to half the positions on the TEC. Such an arrangement places far too much power in the hands of a party that has been soundly rejected by Texas voters for over two decades.
Until the Ethics Commission is abolished or fundamentally reformed, it will continue to be a roost from which Democrats can snipe at their ideological counterparts.