PAC funded by trial lawyers accused of multiple violations

David Yates Nov. 29, 2014, 6:00pm

AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) – A legal watchdog group suspects a PAC funded mostly by trial lawyers has committed multiple violations.

According to a Feb. 26 press release, Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC called out Balance PAC for allegedly falsely reporting campaign contributions from candidates who did not, in fact, contribute to Balance PAC.

TLRPAC also faulted Balance PAC for reporting in-kind contributions to several Republican candidates who have stated they never received anything of value from Balance PAC and had not received any notice or reporting from Balance PAC concerning the reported contributions.

TLRPAC says Balance PAC’s 8-day report, filed with the Texas Ethics Commission earlier this week, reveals what appears to be an effort to circumvent the judicial campaign expenditure limits.

According to a Feb. 26 complaint filed with the Texas Ethics Commission by Austin attorney Lee Parsley, many of the candidates Balance PAC claims to have supported with in-kind contributions said they never provided their prior consent or approval for any Balance PAC expenditures.

“This means there is no way Balance PAC could have legally made in-kind contributions to those campaigns,” the TLRPAC press release states.

Under the rules of the TEC, a campaign expenditure is not a contribution from the person making the expenditure if it is made without the prior consent or approval of the candidate or office holder on whose behalf the expenditure was made.

General purpose PACs, such as Balance PAC, are limited to spending $25,000 to support or oppose any single Texas Supreme Court candidate.

Expenditures reported in Balance PAC’s TEC filing show $150,000 in spending apparently directed toward helping the three challengers to the Texas Supreme Court – Robert Talton, Sharon McCally and Joe Pool – twice the amount allowed by law.

The TLRPAC press release says by including additional candidates on its endorsement list – candidates who did not solicit and do not want Balance PAC’s assistance – Balance PAC appears to be attempting to achieve compliance with campaign finance laws by diluting the amount of its expenditures attributable to the Supreme Court challengers.

In 2012, Balance PAC supported Democrat judicial candidates in Harris County. In this election cycle, Balance PAC has been aiding the Republican challengers to the Texas Supreme Court.

Balance PAC reported $249,818 in contributions on its 8-day report, according to the TEC.

After deducting the “bogus contributions” of Sen. Donna Campbell and Agriculture Commissioner Candidate Tommy Merritt, 99.7 percent of its total campaign contributions are from personal injury trial lawyers, the press release states.

TLRPAC is the political arm of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the state's largest civil justice reform organization.

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