With the legislative session in the rear view mirror and candidate filing set to kick off in a matter of days, a number of interest groups have published scorecards rating members of the state legislature. One of these groups is the Texas Association of Business, a powerful Austin lobby group. Over the years, the Texas Association of Business has given Republican voters the perception that they are a conservative organization. The truth, however, is quite different.
In recent weeks, a number of articles have been published in national media outlets regarding a well-funded effort by allegedly “pro-business” groups to get involved in Republican primaries against candidates and officeholders associated with the “TEA Party” movement. These news reports have identified the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers as major players in this effort to defeat principled conservative candidates.
A quick look at the website of the Texas Association of Business website shows a list of their associated organizations. Topping this list are none other than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.
The Texas Association of Business has not yet publicly acknowledged any plans to fight the TEA Party here in Texas. However, a review of their 2013 legislative scorecard clearly shows that such efforts are underway.
In their ratings of the Texas House of Representatives, The Texas Association of Business ranked libertarian-leaning conservative David Simpson dead last with a score of 47, the same score earned by several of the most outspoken liberals in the legislature such as Lon Burnam and Mary Gonzalez. TEA Party backed freshman Jonathan Stickland earned a score of 71 on their scorecard, placing him behind 15 liberal House Democrats and tied with notorious Houston liberal Hubert Vo. Six other conservative Republicans earned scores of 73, the same score earned by El Paso Democrat Naomi Gonzalez (who made headlines when she was arrested for DWI after causing a car accident during the legislative session).
The Texas Association of Business’ ratings of State Senators are even more laughable. State Senators Ken Paxton, Donna Campbell, and Dan Patrick are generally considered three of the most conservative members of the State Senate. They each earned a score of 82 from the Texas Association of Business- the same score earned by liberal Democrats Eddie Lucio, Carlos Uresti (a rumored Democratic candidate for Attorney General), and Leticia Van de Putte (a rumored Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor).
If one were to base their votes solely off the Texas Association of Business scorecard, there would be no difference between Ken Paxton and Carlos Uresti should they face each other in a race for Attorney General, nor would there be any difference between Dan Patrick and Leticia Van de Putte in a race for Lt. Governor.
12 of the 31 members of the State Senate earned scores of 91- including Democrats John Whitmire and Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa.
Any legislator who earns a score of 90 of above on the Texas Association of Business scorecard is given the distinction of “Champion for Free Enterprise”, which is described as “the highest honor that a legislator can receive” from their organization. Their apparent belief that John Whitmire, who has been a leading champion of liberal causes during his four decades in public office, is a stronger supporter of “free enterprise” than Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton, or Donna Campbell, is absurd.
I challenge Bill Hammond, the President of the Texas Association of Business, to publicly explain exactly how and why particular votes were chosen to be included in his scorecard and to also explain why any conservative should listen to an organization that bestows its highest honor upon John Whitmire while simultaneously giving its lowest rating to David Simpson.
Members of the Texas Legislature should not lend credibility to this scorecard by touting their “Champion for Free Enterprise” or “Fighter for Free Enterprise” designations if so earned. Republican legislators who make the decision to promote such a designation as if it was some kind of meaningful honor should be questioned both as to why they are touting support from an organization that is so closely tied to efforts to marginalize the “TEA Party” and why they are proud to have received the same honor also given to liberals such as John Whitmire.