Texas GOP Questions Group's Attack on Bush

By Ben Anderson | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A Texas-based non-profit campaign watchdog group, which has been critical of Governor George W Bush for amassing a sizeable campaign war-chest, is itself under fire from Texas Republicans for "acting more like a partisan lapdog for Democrats and trial lawyers."

Texas Republican Party Chairwoman Susan Weddington called on the group Texans for Public Justice to "come clean with the people of Texas and reveal their secret funding sources."

Texans for Public Justice is a self-described "non-profit, non-partisan research and advocacy organization that tracks the role of money in Texas politics."

The group has made repeated calls for political campaigns to reveal their income sources and has criticized Republican Governor Bush for his means of financing his presidential campaign.

Among TPJ's criticisms is Bush's plan to avoid the spending limits imposed under federal campaign finance laws if a candidate accepts taxpayer funded matching funds.

Bush has chosen not to use the matching funds, opting instead to raise the money through contributions from more than 150,000 individual donors throughout the country.

Like other candidates, he has also received contributions through various Political Action Committees, donations which one campaign official described as a "miniscule" percentage of the total campaign war-chest.

TPJ was also critical of Bush's team of "Pioneers," business leaders who each volunteered to raise $100,000 from other individuals. Bush disclosed on his campaign web site in July the names of those who had reached their $100,000.

In August, TPJ criticized Bush for accepting "toxic cash" from a chemical manufacturing trade organization.

In defense of the Bush campaign, Weddington wants to know why the TPJ did not take issue with the state's Democrat party's allegedly accepting $2.6 million from 83 individual contributors. According to the state Republican Party, more than half of that came from trail lawyer firms which had collected $3.3 billion in attorney's fees from a tobacco settlement.

"Where was the 'non-partisan' Texans for Public Justice group when trial lawyers basically bought and paid for the Texas Democrat Party in the last election cycle?" Weddington asked. "Texas trail lawyers funneled an obscene amount of money into the Texas Democrat Party in October 1998 in an unsuccessful attempt to buy the election and Texans for Public justice was nowhere to be found."

TPJ spokesman Andrew Wheat called the allegations "ridiculous, especially in Texas where the difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party where the difference is even smaller than it is on the national scale."

Wheat said legislators on both sides of the isle in Texas dislike TPJ for exposing campaign finance sources of all candidates.

Wheat points to the TPJ report entitled "Mortgaged House" which reveals the source of contributions to every member of the Texas legislature.

"They were all furious with us because we pointed out how much of their money comes from out-of-district, big business and PACs. We attacked them across the board," Wheat said.

Another TPJ report analyzed the "Texas Revolvers," state-level public officials who end up lobbying the legislature after they leave office.

TPJ designated Bush's predecessor former Democrat Governor Ann Richards as "Dean of Texas Revolving Lobby." Richards "basically became a high-paid lobbyist for...despicable" groups, Wheat said.

As for why TPJ hasn't attacked the campaign finance practices of other presidential candidates, Wheat reiterated TPJ's mission of tracking money to Texas politicians.

In reference to Vice President Al Gore's campaign for the Democratic nomination, Wheat said, "you'll find a lot of the same phenomenon."

"For Heaven's sake, Gore's hired Tony Coehlo who has an abominable record on the same kinds of money and ethics issues," Wheat said.