Observers of State Republican politics will recall a time period not too long ago when the Republican Party of Texas was plagued with a crippling debt, crony contracts, and wasteful spending. Widespread grassroots disdain with the operations of the state Party resulted in the election of Steve Munisteri as State Chairman in 2010. Under Chairman Munisteri’s leadership, the Republican Party of Texas has become a debt free and financially efficient operation that has played a key role in recent Republican electoral gains across our state.
Unfortunately, the recent appointment of Becky Berger by Chairman Munisteri to the Party’s “officials committee” gives great cause for concern. Established by the bylaws of the State Republican Executive Committee, the “officials committee” is charged with transacting Party business between State Republican Executive Committee (“SREC”) meetings, preparing the Party’s budget, and ratifying certain contracts. Considering the Party’s past issues with gross fiscal mismanagement, it is crucial that members of the “officials committee” not only have the highest ethical standards, but have demonstrated competence in the management of financial affairs. Berger is lacking in both regards.
Berger’s name may be familiar to readers of the blog. Not long after her election to the State Republican Executive Committee in 2010, she began what has become a perpetual campaign for public office. After a failed bid for Railroad Commissioner in the 2012 Republican Primary, she almost immediately began campaigning for what was another failed bid for Railroad Commissioner in the 2014 Republican Primary. Despite telling groups such as the Collin County Conservative Republicans during her most recent campaign for Railroad Commission that she had never considered running for another office because the Railroad Commission was where her passion lied, Berger has now begun laying the groundwork to run for the Texas House of Representatives in the likely event that current State Representative Lois Kolkhorst is elected to fill Glenn Hegar’s seat in the Texas Senate.
Berger’s extensive personal and professional baggage should disqualify her from Party office, let alone public office.
During her campaigns for Railroad Commissioner, Berger portrayed herself as a successful oil and gas professional. However, public records paint an entirely different picture.
In 2003, Berger (then known as Rebecca Broesche) entered into a consent order for disciplinary action with the Texas Department of Insurance. The consent order details how Berger- working as an insurance agent- violated state insurance laws with the selling and collecting commissions on unauthorized products. Berger even goes so far as to acknowledge in the consent order that her conduct violated state law. While the Insurance Commissioner found sufficient grounds to revoke Berger’s insurance license on the basis of her conduct, Berger was instead ordered to pay a $12,000 administrative penalty and comply with the provisions of the consent order.
Berger only paid $100 of the $12,000 administrative penalty, resulting in the Texas Department of Insurance sending her a warning letter in 2006 for violating the terms of the consent order. Subsequently, Berger was notified in November, 2007 that the Texas Department of Insurance had scheduled a hearing with the State Office of Administrative Hearings regarding her noncompliance with the consent order. This hearing appeared to be postponed as a result of negotiations between Berger and the Texas Department of Insurance.
In May, 2008, Berger submitted a sworn affidavit to the Texas Department of Insurance claiming she didn’t have a job or the funds to pay the administrative penalty. Berger went on to state that she expected to have the funds in the near future because of a Court of Appeals ruling in the case of her divorce from her first ex-husband that she expected would net her significant funds. (Later in 2008, Berger notified TDI of her name change from Broesche to Berger.)
These expected funds apparently did not materialize in her estimated timeframe and, in September, 2009, Berger surrendered her insurance license to the Texas Department of Insurance to resolve her noncompliance with the consent order and prevent further enforcement action against her.
The divorce proceedings Berger referenced in the affidavit she submitted to the Texas Department of Insurance also merit close examination. Records and opinions issued relating to Berger’s decades-long court battle with her first ex-husband, including a published opinion from the 14th Court of Appeals, demonstrate a pattern of egregious abuse of the Judicial system by Berger.
The trial court in Harris County that had jurisdiction over Berger’s divorce proceedings took the extraordinary step of ordering her to pay $162,000 in sanctions to her ex-husband and another $17,500 in sanctions to her ex-husband’s employer for repeatedly filing frivolous pleadings with the Court and abusing the discovery process. Berger’s outrageous conduct in this litigation is detailed in the sanctions award signed by the trial court. When Berger appealed the sanctions award to the 14th Court of Appeals, a panel of three Republican Justices upheld the sanctions awards. The Court of Appeals noted that “the trial court found at least twenty-six bases to sanction [Berger] based on [Berger]’s conduct and the conduct of her counsel.”
One of incidents resulting in the sanctions award against Berger that was discussed by the Court of Appeals in their opinion was Berger’s hiring of then-State Representative Joe Nixon shortly before the start of the 2003 legislative session and the accompanying motion for a legislative continuance. The court described this motion for legislative continuance as “frivolous and in bad faith.” The opinion also details other examples of misconduct by Berger resulting in the decision to uphold the sanctions awards against her.
The Republican Party of Texas is blessed to have many hardworking members of the State Republican Executive Committee who possess the personal and professional qualifications and experience to guide our Party to continued success and prosperity in 2014 and beyond. It boggles the mind why Chairman Munisteri would entrust such great responsibility and oversight over the Party’s finances and operations to somebody with the checkered background of Becky Berger.