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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Sleazy Strategy to Hold TX Governorship May Backfire

If you were wondering how low could the GOP go in order to hold the governorship of Texas — yes, that Texas, the one that has the Governor who talks up secession — take a peek at Suzy Khimm’s Mother Jones article “Serial Butt-Biting GOP Operative Sinks Teeth Into Texas Race.”
You probably heard that Governor Rick Perry is in serious electoral trouble, which is no small achievement in one of the reddest of states. Perry, it seems is in a dead heat with Houston’s Democratic Mayor Bill White, who Khimm calls “the strongest gubernatorial contender that Texas Democrats have seen in years.” Here’s Khimm on the Perry campaign’s latest connivance in cahoots with Charles Hurth III, a GOP operative who has a somewhat bizarre personal history:

…Last month, Hurth and two other GOP operatives–one a former top aide to Texas Gov. Rick Perry–were implicated in a scheme to bankroll a petition drive to put the Green Party on the ballot. It is an apparent ploy to siphon votes away from Perry’s Democratic challenger, former Houston Mayor Bill White. He’s an appealing target: Tied with Perry in the latest poll…
…Hurth’s first claim to fame was being sued in 1987 for approaching a fellow law student in a bar and biting her on the buttocks so hard that she required medical attention. During the trial, Hurth admitted that he’d used the same toothy overture to approach two other women at fraternity parties–and he said that his latest victim should have taken the gesture as a compliment. The jurors didn’t buy it, and Hurth was successfully sued for $27,500. Since then, he has dedicated himself to being a persistent pain in the butt for Democrats, setting up shop in a tiny Missouri town to create a clearinghouse for Republican electoral schemes. The latest came this spring, when Hurth and his allies succeeded in getting the Greens on the 2010 ballot.

If that wasn’t sleazy enough,

…The Texas Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in early June against a Hurth-run nonprofit called Take Initiative America, as well as Arizona-based GOP consultant Tim Mooney and “unknown conspirators” for their role in the effort. Mooney has admitted that he funneled money through Hurth’s organization to pay Free and Equal Inc., a Chicago-based petition-gathering company that ended up amassing 92,000 signatures for the Texas Green Party’s ballot drive. According to a court document, Hurth’s group spent $532,500 on the effort.

Yes, there’s more:

…This isn’t the first time that Mooney and Hurth have resorted to such schemes to help Republicans at the polls. In 2004, Hurth set up an organization called Choices for America that furtively solicited help from Republicans to get then-presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot in New Hampshire, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, among other states. Mooney assisted with Hurth’s 2004 effort, along with Dave Carney, George H.W. Bush’s former political director who’s now one of Rick Perry’s top consultants. At the time, Carney acknowledged to the Dallas Morning News that he was trying to gather signatures for Nader in order to help George W. Bush get reelected. According to the script for the petition drive, canvassers were instructed to tell Bush supporters, “Without Nader, Bush would not be president.”
Three years later, Hurth undertook yet another effort to manipulate electoral politics to the Republicans’ advantage. In 2007, Take Initiative America funded a California ballot initiative that would have distributed the state’s 55 electoral votes by congressional district instead of winner-takes-all. Had it succeeded, the effort would have greatly benefited Republican presidential contenders in the state. Hurth similarly refused to reveal the donor behind the effort, who finally came forward after Democrats accused the group of money-laundering and California officials vowed to investigate. Paul Singer, a hedge-fund manager and major Giuliani fundraiser, admitted that he gave $175,000 to the effort…

Khimm goes on to report that the Texas Green Party accepted the money, probably knowing that it could be coming from Republicans and that the state Democratic Party is continuing its legal challenge to ascertain exactly who funded the GOP-backed petition drive. It would be ironic indeed if the fallout is such that Perry narrowly loses because the efforts of Republican activists to divide the Democrats ends up winning them the majority of swing voters who don’t like underhanded ballot manipulation games.

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