Texas Supreme Court upholds Election Code in King Street Patriots dispute

By John Sammon | Jul 12, 2017

AUSTIN (Legal Newsline) – The Texas Supreme Court on June 30 upheld the Texas Election Code's restrictions on corporate contributions in a dispute between two political parties.

The Texas Democratic Party accused an organization called the King Street Patriots (KSP), a nonprofit affiliated with the tea party movement and based in Houston, with being an unlawful and secret Republican political action committee.

Texas Democrats sued the KSP, alleging that the organization is, in fact, a political action committee accepting political contributions and making political expenditures in violation of current Election Code statutes.

However, representatives for the KSP maintained it is merely an organization that trains “poll workers” to make certain election balloting is lawful. Members further contended the group is nonpartisan, has not made any monetary contributions to any party or candidate, but simply passes around a cowboy hat seeking minor contributions for organizational-type expenses.

The Texas Democratic Party sued the KSP after the 2010 election alleging Election Code fraud, including making undisclosed non-independent political expenditures, training poll watchers in coordination with Travis County Republican Party officials and holding statewide summits to influence elections. 

Democrats also alleged in the suit the efforts represented a corporate contribution to the Republican Party and called for the organization to register as a political action committee.

In a counterclaim, the KSP challenged the strictures of Texas campaign finance laws, including restrictions on corporate contributions and requirements that apply to political action committees.

A state district court rejected KSP’s challenge to Texas Campaign Finance Law and in 2014, a 3rd District Court of Appeals agreed with the decision. The case was then moved to the Texas Supreme Court in 2015 to hear oral arguments.

On June 30, the Texas Supreme Court declared that political contributions are clearly defined in state codes and declined to reconsider the “constitutionality” of such laws. Finding that the challenge was premature, the state high court referred the case back to the lower court to rule on the KSP challenges.

The high court also found that KSP is not a political action committee on the record.

“Absent other evidence, that conclusion would be fatal to the Texas Democratic Party’s claims,” the court ruled.

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