Anonymous mailer tries to mislead Texas Republican voters

BY Ben Philpott, KUT  May 27, 2014 at 3:05 PM EST

An anonymous mailer appearing across Texas links incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst with Tea Party favorites, even though most Tea Party groups back Dewhurst's opponent, State Sen. Dan Patrick. Image courtesy of KUT

An anonymous mailer appearing across Texas links incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst with Tea Party favorites, even though most Tea Party groups back Dewhurst’s opponent, State Sen. Dan Patrick. Image courtesy of KUT

Editor’s Note: Texas voters head to the polls Tuesday to weigh in on a several races that were left undecided in the primary election March 4, and one of the most heated run-off battles will be over the Republican slot for lieutenant governor, one of the most powerful positions in Texas. Incumbent David Dewhurst is being challenged by state Sen. Dan Patrick, who has the backing of the tea party — but you wouldn’t know that from a mysterious political mailer sent to voters this week.


AUSTIN, Texas — A political mailer was sent to hundreds of thousands of Republican voters recently, calling on them to elect what it called “Tea Party Champions” in Tuesday’s Republican runoff elections. But many Tea Party leaders in the state have never heard of the group that put out the glossy ad.

“Pretty much every general election in Tarrant County, you’re gonna see mailers in African-American districts informing them that election day is a different day than it actually is.” The previously unheard of “United Texas Tea Party” isn’t the only fishy thing about this mailer, according to Tea Party activist Katrina Pierson. It shows Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst alongside Tea Party-backed candidates like Attorney General candidate Ken Paxton and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Sid Miller. That’s despite the fact that most Tea Party groups back Dewhurst’s opponent, State Sen. Dan Patrick.

“And the reason why we started looking at this closely is because it gave the illusion that the United Texas Tea Party mailer was a collaboration of several tea parties in Texas,” Pierson says. “And it turns out that that is not the case.”

The mailer doesn’t include a website, email, phone number, or even the usual political disclaimer stating who paid for it. And it arrived just days before the election. Shocking right? Not really says Quorum Report editor Harvey Kronberg.

“Pretty much every general election in Tarrant County, you’re gonna see mailers or door hangers in African-American districts informing them that election day is a different day than it actually is,” Kronberg says. “You’re going to have candidates being promoted in the wrong district.”

Just because it’s common, doesn’t mean Tea Party leaders can’t get mad anyway. Pierson says a mail fraud complaint has been filed while she and others continue to search for the mailer’s creator.

“This isn’t the first time that a candidate or a group has tried to co-opt the Tea Party name, ” she says. “However this is the first time that it’s been done on such a massive scale. It’s suggested that this mail piece was a half-million dollars, or at least a quarter-million.”

But Harvey Kronberg says over the years, many of these anonymous mailers remain anonymous. And even if the backer is outed, not much happens.

“Eventually the group or individual is identified, usually after the election,” Kronberg says. “And then there’s somebody files a complaint with the local district attorney or the ethics commission. But it rarely produces anything other than a slap on the wrist.”

And in a Lieutenant Governor runoff that’s featured questions about one candidate’s mental health, name calling and reporting on a suicide attempt, a misleading mailer appears kind of quaint.


This post originally appeared on KUT’s website on May 26.