Complaint against “Moving Texas Forward” PAC

The Houston Chronicle article, “A dirty campaign about decades-old bad deeds”, was received detailing potentially unethical activity by “Moving Texas Forward” PAC (Treasurer Lashonda Johnson).

Issues contained within include:
(1) Fleming “… funded a dirty campaign full of half-truths and innuendo that ended up ousting Kirkland …” in 2012.
(2) Texas Ethics Commission documents of the “Moving Texas Forward” PAC do not show any relationship to Mr. Fleming prior to 2014; however, it shows a contribution received this year from “Texans for Good Leaders” PAC (Treasurer Mary Marusik). This particular PAC is recorded as contributing to Ms. Palmer who won against Mr. Kirkland in 2012. One of the most significant contributors to the PAC that year was Mr. Fleming. (Details from the reports to be posted below).
(3) “Kirkland’s DWIs are shameful, no doubt. But the attack ads never mention the dates of the arrests. On the contrary, they make it seem like they happened yesterday. ‘We interrupt this program for this breaking news,’ one radio ad begins, before launching into Kirkland’s past offenses. It notes Kirkland’s ‘history of high-risk behavior that is likely to be repeated.’ A woman’s voice warns, ‘You or your child or family could be Steven Kirkland’s next victim.’ Kirkland says only one station aired the ad but then stopped after his lawyer sent a warning letter.”
(4) “Jordan [Gray’s campaign consultant] denied that the ads were misleading, including one mailer featuring scary drunken driving statistics and court documents detailing Kirkland’s conviction, jail sentence and license suspension. The only date provided is one featured prominently, in big type, near the top right: May 2012…Jordan’s explanation for the May 2012 reference? It was the date a photo of Kirkland included in the ad was taken. Apparently, it’s more important we know when a random photo of Kirkland was taken in his chambers than when he actually committed the offenses at the heart of the attack ad.”
(5) “Moving Texas Forward” PAC filings:
(6) “Texans For Good Leaders” PAC filings:

17 thoughts on “Complaint against “Moving Texas Forward” PAC”

  1. The only thing I find deliberately misleading about this attack ad is the date on the photo. I can’t quite consider this one a foul, though it is tempting. Mr. Kirkland really did have a DWI. That it was twenty years ago should make a difference in the eyes of any potential voters, but I don’t think how long ago the offense took place is the kind of mitigating circumstance someone running an attack ad should have to worry about providing. The date on the photo could be construed as misleading, but so far as I can tell, there are no out-right lies in the ad. It doesn’t exactly raise the level of discourse to resort to attacking someone on the basis of a twenty year old offense, and leaving the impression it might have taken place not so long ago, but it isn’t outright lying. It’s somewhat sneaky, to be sure, but I can’t quite give it a foul.

  2. Elizabeth Jensen

    (1) The biggest issue here is the content in the ad quoted in the article:

    “It notes Kirkland’s ‘history of high-risk behavior that is likely to be repeated.’ A woman’s voice warns, ‘You or your child or family could be Steven Kirkland’s next victim.’”

    Here’s where I see the 20 years since the DUI offense being an important measure: “history of high-risk behavior that is likely to be repeated” is unsubstantiated. We can certainly contact the “Moving Texas Forward” PAC for an explanation, if any of the Referees request it.

    (2) On the photo date, I would beg to disagree on the harm (foul) relative to misleading materials. If a significant number of voters misinterpret the mailer and think that the offense occurred in 2012, then the mailer has misinformed voters _cheating_ them of the opportunity to make an informed vote. No doubt some would still prefer to vote for a candidate with a cleaner background, but (for myself) I don’t have a problem with voting for a leader who understand the pressures that lead to a colossal screw-up…as long as they admit that they made a mistake and try to fix it.

  3. Elizabeth Jensen

    Another way to look at this, Tim, is imagine you’re working off of a scientific paper written like these ads. It’s not _technically_ wrong, just misrepresented to give any casual reader the wrong impression. How would you feel?

  4. I can absolutely see that. It is definitely designed to give an impression that, after further research, would almost certainly be reversed. It probably says plenty about my views of politics that I walk into my view of political ads thinking that, best case, they’re “based on a true story.”
    I don’t know that the goal of such ads is even really to inform the public as much as it’s to win an election. If I did run across this kind of thing, and after further research I’d found it to be too awfully under-handed, I’ve got to say it would have precisely the opposite of its intended effect.

  5. Note to observers:
    One of our Referees has been dealing with serious family medical problems since the end of February; we will resume this deliberation and vote as soon as we have a 3rd Referee available.

  6. Most of the thoughts I had on this article have already been brought up. One of my main concerns was that the absence of a date on the “case records”, accompanied by the inclusion of a much more recent date on the photograph, was intentionally misleading. As far as the radio advertisement is concerned, I don’t really think that two occurrences decades ago constitutes chronic drunk driving, but this can only be evaluated on an opinion basis. The claim that the offence is “likely to be repeated” is unsupported by the facts provided.

  7. I’ll call for a second on this one, Liz. Can I go ahead and vote here? If I can, I’m voting not to consider it a foul. It’s perhaps a little shady, but not shady enough to me to consider it worthy of a formal foul.

  8. I’m going to disagree, and vote for calling it a foul. The misrepresentation of information threatens to cheat a significant number of voters from making a decision based on the facts. I doubt many people will support a candidate with a recent DUI; however, many good candidates _now_ have had troubles that they had to overcome. Everyone involved in alleging that *he could be out there threatening your family right now* knows very well that’s a blatant lie, legally defined as “defamation”. Lying and misrepresenting data to voters is unethical free speech.

  9. Perhaps I underestimate the willingness of the typical audience member of these advertisements to fully investigate the facts the claims are based on, but I would call this a foul. I do think that the misrepresentation of the true situation surrounding the facts in these ads must have had an impact on the way some people voted.

  10. I have concluded that George Felming’s “Moving Texas Forward” PAC is not guilty of voter deception and therefore not worthy to grace our wall of shame due to the lack of evidence that the author of this article failed to provide. I agree with Tim that what Flemming did was sneaky and underhanded, and it is no suprise after learning of the ongoing fued based on a past court case in which Kirkland’s ruling (as judge) had cost Fleming and his firm $13 million. My problem with this article is lack of evidence and examples of previous smear campaigns orchestrated by Flemming, such as the “dirty campaign full of half-truths and innuendo” that cost Kirkland his last election. I am expected to just accept these accusations without further examples.

    I would have liked to have some specific examples on Fleming’s past. Also perhaps some links to some of the smear videos containing the date the photo was taken that was allegedly confused for Kirkland’s arrest date.

    I fail to see anything deceitful, only underhanded and sneaky as Tim points out. I therefore vote no foul.

  11. Prior to voting, I had the opportunity to obtain the requested information (a copy of the mailer and a recording of the show). No referees requested the documentation under the assumption that the author of the article, Ms. Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle, had done her work in documenting the material for her piece. (If not, journalists can be discredited.) There has been no dispute about the existence of the materials.

  12. Reminder to all Referees:
    The MEASURE of a “Foul” is whether or not a significant number of voters would have selected a different candidate when provided accurate information.

  13. I’ll acknowledge your previous post clarifying the existence of the proper materials and the author’s integrity.

    So the question is, “was this information accurate?” I originally voted yes (no foul), even though this sneaky underhanded tactic was defended by Jordan who said on Fleming’s behalf that they are fully aware of the strategic placement of the date and a “DWI is a DWI” regardless of time. I felt that they did no wrong doing (legally) and that they were are not breaking any ethics rules, just creative in finding loopholes to go around it. But after further contemplation, I could see how this sneaky underhanded tactic is not fair and would have a significant impact on election results. Therefore, I am changing my vote to “foul.”

  14. The “Aye’s” are greater than one standard deviation. The Referees find in favor of putting “Moving Texas Forward” PAC (Treasurer Lashonda Johnson) on the Wall-of-Shame.

  15. This PAC is irresponsible. The treasurer either does not live at the address provided to the Texas Ethics Commission or does not accept official mail correspondence relative to his/her duties.

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