Democratic Judge Accuses Anti-Voter-Fraud Group of Illegal Tea Party Connections

A Texas based judge with deep, overt ties to the Democratic Party has ruled that an anti-voter fraud organization--‘True the Vote’--is not a non-profit corporation as they claim, but instead an illegal front group for the Republican Party. 

Judge John Dietz of the 250th Judicial District Civil Court in Austin, Texas issued a summary judgment that the Houston-based anti-voter fraud group unlawfully assisted the Republican Party with poll-watching efforts throughout the 2010 elections. Deitz has been labeled “legendary” by Texas Democrats. In 2009, the Travis County Democratic online newsletter wrote that, “Dietz’s knowledge of court history in Travis County runs deep, and so does his commitment to the Democratic Party.” 

The Democratic Party, which brought the lawsuit challenged the legitimacy of ‘True the Vote’ by accusing the organization of being a front group for Republicans and another Texas based tea party group called the ‘King Street Patriots,’ which were both founded by Texas activist Catherine Engelbrecht. 

The mainstream media--including this Houston Chronicle article--has been reporting the story as if the two groups are one in the same when True the Vote activists say that is not the case and that the two groups are separate and distinct.  The distinction is crucial since the King Street Patriots, a registered 501(c)(4) organization engages in political tea party activities whereas the True the Vote group--which is applying for 501(c)(3) non-profit status does not.

“Everyone labels us as the same organization, and I think they do that because it’s a political maneuver to creates the impression that the facts are other than what they actually are,” says Catherine Englebrecht, the founder of both organizations. “If we were to argue this on the facts they wouldn’t have a case.”

Engelbrecht said that although she is the founder of both groups, they have acted completely apart from one another. “We’re taking a number of actions to make sure that it’s clear the groups operate independently from one another, which they always have.”

The Democratic Party has charged that True the Vote made unlawful political contributions to the Texas Republican Party by working with the party to train poll watchers and by holding candidate forums that were limited to GOP candidates.

“Neither group has ever given a political campaign contribution to a political candidate or party,” said Engelbrecht. “King Street Patriots has on occasion allowed Republican candidates and officials to come speak--which they can do as a 501(c)(4)--but True the Vote has not.”

True the Vote fought the Democratic Party’s lawsuit in a counterclaim by challenging several Texas campaign finance laws related to campaign contributions and political action committees. The often left leaning Houston Chronicle--considered by many to lean left--featured an interview with local constitutional attorneys who said that Texas laws had been reformed since the lawsuit began, but Judge Dietz’s ruling does not appear to adhere to the changes in.

The group filed a counterclaim challenging several provisions of Texas campaign finance law, including the state's restrictions on corporate contributions to candidates, officeholders and political committees, and disclosure requirements that apply to political committees.

"There's been quite a few changes in election law since the Democratic Party filed its lawsuit," said Hiram Sasser, an attorney with the Liberty Institute, the Plano-based nonprofit legal firm representing the King Street Patriots. "Those changes … have crystallized that many ordinances the Democratic Party is trying to enforce are unconstitutional. Obviously, the court did not agree."

Engelbrecht says the case will be appealed. “The first judgment was unfortunate, but not at all unexpected. We look forward to the opportunity to appeal.”

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