The Austin Chronicle

Saving HeteroTexas: God and the GOP

By Amy Smith, October 7, 2005, News

All's fair in war, Texas politics, and gay bashing, or so it would seem this campaign season. According to Glen Maxey, the folks who claim God on their side in the fight over same-sex marriage are playing as fast and loose with the rules as Tom DeLay and company did in the 2002 election cycle.

Drawing from the momentum of the Sept. 28 criminal indictments of the former U.S. House majority leader and two of his associates, Maxey and political watchdog organizations are redoubling efforts to shine more light on the operations of two seemingly affiliated groups working for passage of Proposition 2 – one a registered political action committee, the other a secretive coalition of pastors.

Maxey, a former Austin state representative and director of the No Nonsense in November opposition effort, says the powerbrokers driving Proposition 2 have much more at stake in the election than the sanctity of marriage. "This is not about marriage," he said. "This is about the politics of control, it's about economics, it's about private school vouchers … it's about everything but marriage."

Not coincidentally, the two pro-amendment groups are the handiwork of some of the same political operatives and donors who helped execute the statewide Republican coup three years ago. For example, the two associates who stand accused with DeLay of conspiring to violate campaign finance laws – John Colyandro and Jim Ellis – serve as consultants to the Texas Marriage Alliance, the designated mouth-piece organization for Proposition 2. The alliance touts itself as a bipartisan, multifaith PAC, yet its Web site all but outs itself as a Christian-right whistle-stop for Gov. Rick Perry's 2006 re-election campaign, complete with Perry's video assurances that marriage is "a sacred union between one man and one woman." Additionally, one of the GOP's most prolific campaign donors, and Perry's largest individual donor – Houston homebuilder Bob Perry (no relation) – helped kickstart the PAC in late June with a $10,000 contribution, as reflected in the alliance's initial filings with the Texas Ethics Commission.

The larger mystery centers on the "Texas Restoration Project," which isn't registered as either a PAC or a nonprofit. The pastors' mission is to register 300,000 new "values voters" through their churches to drive up the "yes" votes on Proposition 2. Campaign ethics watchdogs say that the project's privately funded "pastors' policy briefings" throughout the state, for which Gov. Perry is usually a featured speaker, should require the group to disclose its funding sources. Kathy Miller, president of the progressive Texas Freedom Network, also believes these gatherings serve the dual purpose of helping Perry's 2006 re-election campaign, and that he too should disclose these contributions in his financial reports. Perry spokesman Robert Black said the governor speaks to many groups, including groups of pastors, such as this one. "He's a man of faith himself," he said of the governor.

Like the Texas Marriage Alliance, the Texas Restoration Project also has GOP consultants on its team. The Houston Chronicle reported last month that the project's events are arranged by a firm run by Craig Murphy, former spokesman for U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, and Wayne Hamilton, former head of the Texas Republican Party.

Does the project meet the definition of a PAC? Natalia Ashley, an attorney with the state Ethics Commission, said a trier of fact would have to answer that question, but only after someone has filed a complaint, either with the commission or a district or county prosecutor. So far, no one has done that – and should a complaint be filed, any response from the commission is unlikely to be available until long after the Nov. 8 election.

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