Well, it’s not every day that you wake-up on a Sunday morning to see that you’ve been identified and quoted in the lead editorial of your local newspaper [http://www.chron.com/opinion/editorials/article/Beware-of-slate-cards-5279013.php]—but yesterday was one of those days.
Those of you who have followed Big Jolly Politics know that one of the problems both David Jennings and I are passionate about fixing is the “pay for play” culture in our local GOP primary, which dipped its toe into the statewide primary this year. It must be stopped, and I am proud of the bold step the Precinct Chairs of the Harris County Republican Party took during their last Executive Committee meeting to address this problem by adopting a Resolution condemning the practice. I am told that at many precinct conventions across the state tomorrow evening, resolutions will be offered to address this problem at the statewide level, and I support the drafts of those resolutions that I have seen. Stopping the “pay for play” culture is one reason I joined the board of United Republicans of Harris County in 2012.
Although we Republicans often criticize the editorial content of the Houston Chronicle (often for good reason), I have to thank the Chronicle reporters and editors who have increasingly reported on this problem within our party. The latest editorial yesterday fairly tracked much of what David and I have been reporting and arguing for years without condemning the Republican Party as a whole, and the editors arrived at the right conclusion—we Republican voters must stop the demand for the for-profit and consultant-driven mailers, and eventually stop the demand for all of the slate mailers that have sprung-up in response to the for-profit mailers, by doing our own homework before we vote.
However, from the private responses I have received to the editorial over the last 24 hours, the text of the editorial seems to have created a critical misperception that I want to briefly address. I do so both because I was referenced and quoted by name in the editorial, and also because I am a member of two organizations—United Republicans of Harris County (not “United Republicans of Texas,” as stated in the editorial—to my knowledge there is no organization by that name) and the C Club of Houston—that send out endorsement mailers that are produced through a very different process than that followed by the purveyors of the for-profit faux endorsement mailers.
Many people have read the editorial as equating the endorsement process behind all of the slate mailers as being for-profit shams. Although I don’t think that is the impression the editors intended to create, I want to be very clear: if you are a Republican primary voter in Harris County, not every slate mailer was paid for, directly or indirectly, with advertising funds from the candidates endorsed in the mailers, or is just a cover for endorsing one consultant’s stable of candidates—this is why you need to be very careful about these mailers.
For instance, the two groups in which I participate independently evaluate the candidates and pay for the mailer from their membership dues. United Republicans asks candidates to fill-out questionnaires and gives them an opportunity to interview with the PAC’s board, while the C Club goes to great lengths to gather and evaluate independent, objective information on each candidate (including, sometimes, through direct interviews) before it makes its endorsements. Both PACs pay for their mailers through PAC membership dues or membership assessments—their mailers are not for-profit advertising schemes, but are based on the evaluation of the candidates in light of their competence for the office for which they are running and the political criteria established by each organization.
Of course neither organization’s process is full-proof. For example, I have learned that some candidates in this past cycle either may not have received the United Republican’s questionnaire, or could not schedule an interview—or both. Moreover, I learned after joining our board that United Republicans had received funds in two prior primaries from two endorsed statewide candidates, after they were endorsed, to help to cover the cost of our mailers. But, going into this primary cycle, our board agreed to never again make such exceptions to our policy of not accepting funds from candidates in contested primary races (even after they had been endorsed); and we intend to address the notice problems that arose in this cycle so they don’t repeat themselves in the future, because if any candidate feels that they did not get a fair opportunity to participate in the United Republican process, that is unacceptable.
But even with these problems, I stand by what both United Republicans and the C Club are trying to do to combat the for-profit mailers, and those mailers tied to certain campaign consultants—these organizations have been engaged in the battle against the “pay for play” culture a lot longer than I have, and I am proud to be part of their current efforts. I think I can speak for my colleagues in both these organizations when I say that I hope (consistent with the opinion expressed by the Chronicle editors) for the day when the demand for any of these slate mailers no longer exists.
Until that day comes, though, there is a difference between the fair process engaged in by groups like United Republicans and the C Club, and those implemented by Hotze, Lowry, Polland, and others. So, do your homework.
And to help you do your homework, Big Jolly Politics has provided you with an endorsement matrix this year so you can use one click to compare how all the slates—objective and for-profit—have evaluated the candidates. I think, after making a thorough comparison, you’ll find the comparison very enlightening and helpful.
To all the candidates and their supporters who are heading into tomorrow’s final election day, thank you all for your hard work and your participation in this process—and good luck!