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What’s the Matter With Texas?

The following is an editorial, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Green Party of the United States or Green Party Watch.

This week it was revealed that:
a) a Republican consultant in Arizona arranged for…
b) a non-profit corporation in Missouri to pay $200,000 for…
c) a petitioning company “Free & Equal” to collect 92,000 signatures and…
d) give them as a gift to the Green Party of Texas to get a slate of candidates on the ballot.

Are Democrats pissed? You betcha. They are suing the Texas Green Party, Free & Equal, and “Take Initiative America” to delay the balloting of Green Party candidates until they can determine the source of the funding, and they are pointing fingers at Texas Governor Rick Perry.

The Green Party of Texas is cooperating by agreeing to delay submitting their slate of candidates until the courts rule on the matter. kat swift, State Coordinator of the Green Party of Texas, has been reported saying that they believe the petition drive was legal, but will wait for written assurance of that fact. swift also said that once the petition drive is determined to be legal, the Green Party of Texas will field a slate of candidates regardless of what individual funded the petition drive.

What’s at Stake

For the Democrats and Republicans, they both think that if there are Greens on the ballot in Texas it will “siphon votes” away from the Democratic candidate for Governor and consequently help Republican Governor Rick Perry. Rather than appeal to Green Voters, the Democrats are seeking to prevent Greens from appearing on the ballot.

For the Green Party, who hasn’t been able to surpass Texas’ incredibly high ballot access barrier since 2000, what’s at stake is ballot access not only this year but an all but guaranteed spot on the ballot in Texas in 2012, a Presidential Election year. This is due to the fact that in the State Comptroller’s race their is no Democrat, which will likely assure the Green Party of achieving the 5% necessary to carry ballot access over to 2012.

Also at stake for the Green Party of Texas is continued existence on the political map in Texas. If you aren’t on the ballot, you can’t stay on the ballot, and building the support a fledgling political party needs is even harder.

The Ballot Access Barrier

When two political parties write the rules that make ballot access easy for themselves, and extremely difficult for other political parties, it is not fair. Ballot Access should be equal for all, and in many states it is. In Texas, all political parties other than the Democrats and Republicans must obtain over 42,000 signatures from registered voters who did not vote in the most recent primary election. This is a huge barrier, and even the corporate press admits that it would take either a monumental grassroots effort or a significant amount of money to accomplish. The Green Party of Texas had neither.

A “Deal With the Devil”?

This is not the first time that Republicans have “conspired” to help Green Party candidates to surpass ballot access barriers that they themselves have created. Republicans are accused of financially assisting Ralph Nader’s Independent campaigns for President in 2004 and 2008, neither of which tipped the election, and most notably Pennsylvania Green Senate Candidate Carl Romanelli’s efforts to acquire over 66,000 signatures to get on the ballot, which was defeated in court.

Each time there is outrage that Greens would accept Republican money to surpass ballot access barriers set by Democrats, but no efforts by Democrats to establish fair and equal access to the ballot. For Democrats and Republicans it is all about winning, not “principles”, but for the Green Party it is only about having an opportunity to appear on the ballot and appeal to the electorate.

Does it matter if Greens get money from Republicans? Democratic candidates receive far more money from Republicans than Greens with no outrage. However Greens often campaign on “clean elections”, transparency in funding, and rejecting corporate money and influence. The Green Party of Texas is skirting the line between the darkness of anonymous funding of a “gift” of ballot access and their desire to compete at the ballot box on equal footing with the Democrats and Republicans.

Damage Control & Public Opinion

Some Greens are pissed off. They are worried about blow back from the story in Texas hurting their party building efforts in other parts of the country. They are concerned that for the Green Party of Texas to have a role in this scheme essentially condones the “dirty politics” that Greens abhor. Will negative press from this story hurt the campaigns of Whitney in Illinois or Stein in Massachusetts?

kat swift has been firm in her position that if the petition gathering was legal, the Texas Greens will report the 92,000 signatures as an “in kind contribution” and place their candidates on the ballot. Some Greens are using this story to point out the inequities in ballot access requirements for third parties, and defending the Texas Green Party. The argument goes that the Green Party also wants the Democrats to lose, to Greens, and if Republicans are willing to fund that (and also lose) so be it. If the Greens aren’t on the ballot in Texas, they can’t win or lose, they can’t even play.

Will this story gain any traction outside of Texas among the run of the mill voters who vote Green because they identify with the Green Party platform, or will it be an academic topic for politicos and wonks writing manifestos on Daily Kos? That remains to be seen.

The “Fuck You” Vote

Lets face it, many people dislike both the Democrats and the Republicans, and most of them don’t even vote. When they do, they are looking for the opportunity to cast a “fuck you” vote – they want to vote for anybody but a Democrat or Republican. In many places they will not have that opportunity. The so-called “Tea Party” movement is based on this principle, but it has been hi-jacked by Republicans to channel that anger into votes for Republicans. It might work, it might not.

The Green Party is the environmental, anti-war, social justice “fuck you” vote – giving voters who care about these issues, but see Democrats failing them, an option at the ballot box. The Green Party doesn’t endorse “environmentally friendly” Democrats or Republicans, the Green Party runs candidates against both the Democrats and Republicans to offer a true alternative to corporate politics in America.

Final Thoughts

kat swift and the Green Party of Texas were well aware of the ethical issues surrounding their only chance to get on the ballot in Texas. They considered the implications before the campaign began, weighed the pros and cons, and chose to proceed. They have made it clear that if the courts determine that the petition drive and its funding was illegal that they will not run candidates.

The Green Party of the United States is a confederation of State Green Parties, and both de-centralization and grassroots democracy are at the core of the party’s values. If Greens in Texas are concerned, they have avenues for expressing that, both within the Texas Green Party and at the ballot box. If Greens outside of Texas are concerned, they frankly just have to deal with it. Short of kicking the Texas Greens out of the Party, the only other alternative is a top down hierarchy that calls the shots across the nation which runs counter to the core values of the Green Party.

I have faith that the Texas Green Party knows the Texas political landscape better than the rest of us, and I will be following the story as it unfolds without judgment or bias.

This editorial reflects my personal opinion, not an official position of either the Green Party of the United States or Green Party Watch.

Upcoming dates to watch:

June 12 – Green Party of Texas state convention in which a course of action will surely be discussed.
June 24 – A hearing in Austin will decide on the issue of a corporate donation.
July 2 – possibly the deadline for the Green Party of Texas to submit their candidates.

Ronald Hardy

6 Comments

  1. Where did the non-profit get the $200,000? Was it collected from individuals, or was it collected from…oh, I don’t know, BP? Haliburton? Blackwater? I hope they make every effort to clarify this. I don’t think the Texas Greens can just say essentially “oh well, we got what we wanted, so it doesn’t really matter where the money comes from”…that’s kind of missing the point even *being* the Texas Green Party.

    You know, when I approach somebody about signing a petition to get the Greens on the ballot, if the person hesitates, I always chime in that “we don’t accept corporate campaign contributions”. A lot of times, when people hear that, they’ll go ahead and sign. That principle would be one thing I’d never trade for easy ballot access.

    No money from mysterious sources. We need transparency.

  2. My opinion is that if the petition drive was sponsored by “funny money,” so what?
    I’m sick and tired of us being illegally and unconstitutionally being kept out off the ballot by the Dems and Reps games and their dirty pool. They use us, we should have no qualms about using them.

    Transparency is great but Green parties of almost every state in the union are so transparent they’re almost ghostly!!! We started out with the best of intentions and noble thoughts of non-corporate money, which will work IF YOU HAVE FAIR BALLOT ACCESS LAWS, but which no state in the union has! Frankly, we don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of running candidates if we cannot get on the ballot. Period. Fact. People are leaving the party because they are becoming convinced they won’t have candidates to vote for ever!
    And it’s the 2 major parties who control election law and ballot access.

    The money in question did NOT pay for the signatures. Nobody was bribed with 21¢ to sign the petition. Nobody was paid to run as a candidate. It merely paid for the *opportunity* for people who were already willing to sign to make their wishes known. Texas law does allow for corporate support of conventions – this is a broad interpretation of a gathering of folks with the same ideas. And really, playing by the rules, when will Greens ever get a chance to run- when we’re *allowed* to run?? i.e. NEVER!!!

    At this point we may have to use the avarice, greed and stupidity of the major parties to game the system in order to change it.
    As was stated in the article, nobody complains when Republicans give $$ support to Democrats strategically and vice versa or when corporations give $$ to both to cover their bets and in Colorado, the Democratic party paid to ballot qualify 2 new conservative parties and in Michigan it’s believed that a Democratic operation is trying to qualify the Tea Party for the ballot. The best system? No, but it works for them and has kept them in power for decade after decade. Third parties were deliberately kept off ballots after many progressive initiatives that led to suffrage and civil rights gains.
    We should not just roll over and accept this as the way things should be, will be.

  3. As a writer, editor and co-founder of Green Party Watch, I could not have said it better myself. You got it exactly right Ron.

  4. “At this point we may have to use the avarice, greed and stupidity of the major parties to game the system in order to change it.”

    When has this mentality ever worked? When has it ever succeeded in changing anything?

  5. Random, if we can’t prove that grassroots democracy and transparency actually WORK then what is the point in going on as a party, anyway? If we really do need to engage in the same b.s. as the corporate parties, then we’ve got nothing to offer that’s any different.

  6. People need to understand the difference between campaign finance and ballot access. It is about having choices. It is the right of anyone to collect and turn in signatures for anyone else. Who cares who collected the signatures? What is important is that 92,000 Texas made their voices heard: they want a choice!

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