By John Alaniz
In November of 2010, several months before the 2011 Texas Legislative Session began; Texas State Rep. Bryan Hughes issued a press release stating that he had withdrawn his support from Rep. Joe Straus as Speaker ("Bryan Hughes PR," 11.10.10). Rep. Hughes explained that a member of Straus' leadership team had called and had "…brought up the subject of redistricting and explained to me how that process would be used to punish those members not on Speaker Straus's list of supporters."
Rep. Hughes went on to say, "More specifically, this member told me that maps were already being drawn to get rid of Representative-Elect Erwin Cain (R) and Representative-Elect Dan Flynn(R)."
In researching the facts for this story, I have discovered that other conservative House members were also threatened by Straus' minions.
Rep. Hughes' press release sparked a firestorm of debate with one side disgusted by the strong arm tactics and the other denying they occurred.
The member of Straus' leadership team who made the call to Rep. Hughes was identified as Rep.Larry Phillips.
A hearing was held by the House Ethics Committee chaired by a Straus appointee who was the recipient of a $42K campaign contribution from Straus ("Rep. Chuck Hopson, Who Chairs Ethics Panel Investigating Allegation Against Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, Received $42K,"Texas Watchdog, 11.22.10). Rep. Phillips was also a member of the Committee.
In the hearing, Rep. Hughes asked that he be placed under oath as he gave his testimony; but Rep. Phillips did not volunteer to give his testimony under oath ("Texas House Ethics Committee Meeting Was Illegal, Only One Witness Put Under Oath, Most Details Hidden From Public," Liberty Institute, 12.1.10). Undoubtedly, as an attorney, Rep. Phillips knew that he could lose his attorney's license if he lied under oath. The hearing ended without judgment because of the "he said, she said" nature of the conversation.
Fast-forward to the end of the session and we can now see the threats that disgusted Rep. Hughes have become a reality. Rep. Erwin Cain, Rep. Dan Flynn, Rep. Wayne Christian, and other good conservatives have been deliberately disadvantaged by the House redistricting map that was recently passed.
Even worse, the conservative Republican members of the State Board of Education have also been placed in jeopardy by the SBOE redistricting map forced through by the chair whom Straus appointed.
As Representative Hughes stated, "The speaker's race should be decided not based on threats of punishment and not on promises of power, but on principle."
Certainly there are very good conservatives who serve in the Texas Legislature honorably, and they have fought long and hard during this legislative session to get their conservative bills out of committee. The problem is the "quid pro quo" environment that lures unprincipled legislators.
Straus and his supporters' arrogance in openly fulfilling their threats perpetrated on fellowRepublicans is an obvious indication of a sense of immunity from the will of the people. On the outside, it certainly has the smell of corruption and an abuse of power. With a closer look, there's no doubt in my mind the stink is real; and it is certainly disgusting.