Questions alleging legislative “bribery” against the Republican Party of Texas have prompted the state GOP to send public records requests to all Texas House members in an effort to identify the source of the query.
Earlier this month, the Texas Ethics Commission received a question about the Republican Caucus Speaker Selection Commitment Form. The anonymous query asked the TEC whether the form constituted legislative “bribery.”
News reports suggested the inquiry was made by a member of the Legislature.
State Republican Party Chairman James Dickey defended the party’s commitment form and called for a public airing of the ethics request.
“This ‘inquiry’ is clearly absurd and should be dispatched with quickly. The easiest way to do so is to know all the details, and having a complete and accurate copy of the letter is critical in that effort,” Dickey said in a statement posted on the party’s website Tuesday.
State Government Code requires the Ethics Commission to maintain the confidentiality of the names of persons requesting advisory opinions.
“That law does not authorize others not affiliated with the commission to withhold presumably public information in its possession,” according to the Republican Party’s statement.
The commitment form will be given to all Republican candidates running in the 2018 House elections. “When House candidates file for office, we will ask them whether they will commit or not commit to supporting the [speaker] choice of caucus,” Dickey told The Texas Monitor.
The chairman said the pledge, which candidates are free to accept or not, helps voters make their choices.
“The party’s base has very clearly said it is the will of the voters that representatives honor the selection of the caucus,” Dickey said. “It would be a significant act of defiance and hubris for an elected representative to take a position opposed to the voters.”
Retiring Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has relied on moderates and minority Democrats voting as a bloc to hold onto the speakership. Straus, his committee chairman and lieutenants angered fellow Republicans — including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — by derailing legislation ranging from school choice to property tax relief to small-business deregulation last session to the so-called “bathroom bill.”
With Republicans expected to maintain their House majority, the No. 1 contest in the run-up to the 2019 session will be the selection of Straus’s successor.
Reps. Phil King, R-Weatherford, and John Zerwas, a Straus loyalist from Richmond, are running for the position. More candidates are expected.