NLF represents Trebor Gordon, candidate for Houston City Council at-large in November 2015’s elections. We filed a lawsuit November 4 challenging Houston’s ordinance that prevents fundraising by city candidates until February 1 of the election year. The fundamental argument is that Gordon has the right to fundraise for his campaign whenever he wants; he does not have to wait until February 1 to start raising money. Today, the court issued an order granting Gordon’s request for a preliminary injunction.
According to the court’s original briefing schedule, both parties filed their opening briefs Dec. 29, and then each side was to respond by Jan. 5 to the opponent’s brief. However, last night the Court of Appeals notified Rivera that he must amend his opening brief (because it lacked the required appendix). Now he must file the amended brief by Jan. 12. Then, Lopez must file her response by Jan. 19.
After a four-day trial in March 2014 (see case timeline at bottom of story), a Hidalgo County district court found by clear and convincing evidence that 30 votes had been illegally cast in a race for Weslaco City Commission, wiping out incumbent Lupe Rivera’s 16-vote victory and requiring a new election. Central to the case are two issues common across the Rio Grande Valley: residency requirements (voting by persons who do not reside in the electoral district) and failure to follow the strict disclosure requirements enacted to prevent ballot by mail fraud. Once Rivera appealed the decision, Lopez filed a cross-appeal, arguing that the court should have thrown out eleven more illegal votes.
Both sides filed their opening briefs December 29. Responses are due January 5. Lopez’s opening brief is below. Disclosure: NLF represents Lopez at trial and on appeal.
Chronicle reporter Teddy Schleifer has an update on the First Amendment challenge NLF filed in November against the blackout period on fundraising for city offices in Houston (candidates cannot solicit or accept political contributions until February of the year of the election). A ruling on Gordon’s request for a preliminary injunction–which would permit him to fundraise immediately–is expected any day. An excerpt:
Gordon and his attorney, campaign finance lawyer Jerad Najvar, sharply disagree, charging that any campaign is feeble and futile until the candidate has the money to execute it.
“A candidate may decide that it would be counterproductive to make sporadic statements via social media before he has amassed enough resources to properly roll out a campaign,” Najvar said in court papers. “This is the kind of tactical decisions that candidates can make with their advisers, without the need for spitballing by government lawyers.”
The current blackout period, they say, is merely a “paternalistic” way for the powerful to insulate themselves from challengers and does little to prevent quid-pro-quo corruption by city officials. In Gordon’s eyes, a contribution is political expression, and Gordon has a constitutional right to serve as the vehicle for his donors’ opinions.
Historically, Weslaco city candidates have been allowed to place their signs near the City Hall visitors center before early voting. There was no formal procedure, candidates simply showed up and claimed their spots, and those who arrived earliest got the prime locations. This year, Greg Kerr, who is running against Johnny Cuellar, beat Cuellar to the punch and got a prime spot. Suddenly, city officials showed up and literally tore down his materials and took them to a city storage location for Kerr to pick up later. All of a sudden, they claimed the City would institute a new procedure whereby spots would be chosen by a drawing. In other words, Kerr beat Cuellar to the punch, and the drawing would at least give Cuellar the chance to get the spot back.
This all smacks of viewpoint discrimination by the City–enforcing the law selectively to favor one side over another–which is a First Amendment violation. I sent the following letter to the City on behalf of Mr. Kerr today.
I’m scheduled to speak October 25 at the Hidalgo County Republican Women’s Club’s luncheon in McAllen, TX. I’ll talk about political corruption and voter fraud in the Rio Grande Valley. I am honored by the invitation and looking forward to it. The luncheon is at the McAllen Country Club at 10:30 a.m.
If Governor Perry is guilty of criminal “coercion” for “threatening” to use his constitutional veto authority under article 36.03 of the Penal Code, then Senator John Whitmire is guilty as well. Democrats have used the indictment of the Governor under a faulty law as a political opportunity, with no consideration of the very serious constitutional problems raised by the penal code provision. Perhaps they will start to understand the problems posed by this law, in light of the below.
On the heels of complaints filed earlier this year related to vote-buying with beer and cigarettes in the 2012 Donna ISD school board elections, the FBI churns out two more complaints against Rio Grande Valley “politiqueras,” this time alleging two different women bought votes for a Hidalgo County Commissioner candidate in 2012 with cocaine.
It is amazing to me that statewide media in Texas pay little to no attention to the very real–and pervasive–corruption and voter fraud in South Texas. Earlier this year, Najvar Law Firm successfully represented Leticia Lopez, a candidate for Weslaco City Commission last November, in an election contest, proving with “clear and convincing evidence” that her opponent’s victory was the result of nonresident voting and failure to follow disclosure requirements related to mail-in ballots. The court will be ordering a new election soon.
Anybody who follows The Monitor stories knows how the absentee voting process is routinely used in South Texas to manipulate and coerce voters. And, as the Lopez v. Rivera trial proved, illegal voting is actually taking place. It is far more widespread than folks outside the Valley realize, and these stories deserve much more ink.
In an order published a few days ago, the federal district court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania entered an order declaring that, in accordance with Citizens United and all the circuit cases following it, Pennsylvania could not prohibit corporate contributions to independent expenditure only committees. The State had actually conceded throughout the case that it couldn’t enforce the law, and the only question was the scope of the injunction. But the district court included this footnote:
Despite popular misconceptions, Citizens United did not announce that “corporations are people.” The Court had previously recognized that First Amendment protections extend to corporations and other associations of individuals, and not just “natural persons.” Id. at 342–43 (collecting cases). Similarly, Citizens United did not declare that “money is speech”; rather, it was the latest in a line of decisions recognizing that political giving and spending are protected First Amendment activities.