"He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Monday, we wrote a modestly complimentary post about Joe Straus. The funny thing is that, as we were writing it, we had a feeling something was about to break. As if on cue, from Empower Texans:
House Speaker Joe Straus is poised to appoint to the Texas Ethics Commission a Democrat who believes it is time to “dismantle the NRA” and who has compared the 2nd Amendment organization to the terrorist group ISIS.
We had planned to comment yesterday, but Team Straus issued a denial and we decided to the whole situation play out a little longer:In an email to staffers for Austin Democrats Celia Israel and Donna Howard, Wynne says that at Straus’ request she will be replacing Paul Hobby, a Houston Democrat and former chairman of the TEC. Hobby has continued to serve on the commission despite his term expiring eight months ago.Hobby’s tenure on the TEC has been highly controversial. He has pushed the commission to implement draconian regulations designed to suppress the free speech rights of citizens. The regulations have spawned a series of lawsuits from conservative organizations that are fighting to defend the First Amendment.
[Author's Note: It's now been over 24 hours and Embry still hasn't replied].@JasonEmbry Does this mean she's not under consideration?!?— cahnman (@cahnman) July 19, 2016
Cue Empower Texans:
Through media surrogates, Straus is now claiming that no one has been tapped to replace outgoing TEC commissioner Paul Hobby, and that the search for his replacement has not even begun.But that narrative is refuted by the records obtained by Texas Scorecard, which include statements by Capitol staff and Wynne herself that assert she was tapped to replace Hobby.In a May 16th email, Jacob Cottingham, the Legislative Director for State Rep. Donna Howard (D–Austin), told State Rep. Celia Israel’s (D–Austin) chief of staff “I think she’ll be replacing Paul Hobby… Dem. Speaker’s appointment.”Wynne is even more clear about the plan, telling the staffer: “I am replacing Paul Hobby.”After Texas Scorecard published its report, one Austin reporter confirmed that Hobby would be resigning from the commission, a fact that had not previously been made public. In another Austin publication, a Straus source was quoted as saying: “Speaker Straus has not formally asked members for their input on who should succeed Hobby on the commission.”
It gets better:It is obvious that some informal discussions between Hobby, Straus, the Democrats, and Anne Wynne were taking place in May. In fact, it appears likely from the emails that Straus or his staff directed Wynne to have Howard or Israel recommend her name to his office so that he could proceed in appointing her to the vacancy.Now that Wynne has been revealed to be an anti-gun extremist who would likely use the power of the TEC to try to “dismantle” the NRA and other conservative groups, one would assume that Straus will no longer be able to move forward with her appointment. But the evidence is clear that Wynne believed she was set to be appointed to the commission and was telling Democratic offices as much in May.
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.
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.)
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.Bottom Line: The GOP conference's statement was the tell. If there was nothing to this story, they would have ignored it. Team Straus got sloppy and got caught.