Greens On The Ballot (For Now) UPDATED

TX supremes grant stay on earlier ruling

The Texas Supreme Court has just ruled that the Green Party of Texas can certify their controversial ballot petition, thus getting their statewide candidates on to the November ballot. However, the question remains now whether they will stay there.

Today is the last day for certification, so that's the good news for the Greens: They can now turn their energy to getting their statewide campaign together.

Well, some of their energy.

Some better be reserved for their next day in court. The bad news for the Greens is that there will be further hearings. The Supreme Court will now turn its attention to the source of the money that paid for the petition drive. The Greens have a week to submit their brief to the court, then Democrats have an extra week to file their response.

In the earlier ruling barring certification, Judge John Dietz found that the link to Republican money men close to Gov. Rick Perry via the out-of-state Take Initiative America was clearly part of an illegal corporate campaign contribution. However, at a rain-soaked press conference on the south steps of the capitol, the Greens' attorney Steve Smith argued that they are protected by Sec. 257.002(1) of the Texas Election Code. That allows corporate donations to be used to "defray normal overhead and administrative or operating costs of the party." In this case, Smith argued, a petition drive is a normal operating cost for a third party without automatic ballot access.

The Greens' statewide leadership is now left in a very uncomfortable position, and not just that they could end up facing criminal charges for campaign finance law violations. Statewide coordinator kat swift said that the party would not have accepted the petition if they had known in advance that the signatures had been gathered using corporate contributions, but since they didn't know until after they had been collected and submitted, they wouldn't withdraw them. The Greens blame the onerous demands placed on third parties to get before voters as the reason they were forced to take this path: However, as one Democratic activist commented, it's still the electoral equivalent of refusing to hand back a campaign contribution just because the money came from a bank robbery.

Smith also conceded that, while they believe they have the law on their side, this issue has never been contested in a Texas court. This could mean that the Texas Greens (who support banning corporate donations) could be responsible for a further weakening of the state's campaign finance law.

It's not the just the fact that the cash to fund the petition drive came from a corporation that has got Democrats' attention. It's that this effort and an earlier failed initiative were both linked to members of Perry's inner circle, including former chief of staff Mike Toomey and political consultant Dave Carney (who has accused of pulling a very similar stunt to get Ralph Nader on the ballot back in 2004.) Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie wrote, "Rick Perry and the Republicans have tried to use the Green Party to shore up Perry’s sputtering campaign. When Texas voters find out the truth about this secret scheme, they will find career politician Rick Perry and his contributors at the bottom of it."

Kay Bacon, spokesperson for Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Bill White, was more to the point: "Every week the number of Perry insiders linked to this ballot scam grows. Texans deserve answers about the illegal corporate money, the secret scheme to sway this election, and what the governor knew."

As well as leaving themselves open to criticism from Democrats, the Greens are already facing pressure from other sections of the environmental community to back away from what they see as a deal with the devil.

On July 1, the League of Conservation Voters wrote an open letter requesting that they not seek ballot access. League Executive Director David Weinberg wrote, "It stands to reason that the ballot petition drive funders' primary interest was to siphon votes away from Bill White to the benefit of a big polluter like Rick Perry. It is profoundly dismaying that the Green Party decided, by accepting this tainted money, to be a willing accomplice in this endeavor."

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