Group Skirting Disclosure Laws in Two Texas Races

A Houston-based group sent mailers into at least two House races, but instead of using its political action committee to pay for the mailings, it used a 501(c)4, a nonprofit that is not required to disclose its sources of money.

The Citizen Leader Alliance, started by Leo Linbeck III of Houston, sent flyers on behalf of Republicans in two districts, carefully avoiding endorsements but expressing its admiration for state Rep. Ken Legler, on one hand, and challenger Marva Beck, on the other. Legler is being challenged in House District 144 by Democrat Rick Molina of Houston, an attorney who's been slamming the incumbent he says is moving jobs to China. Beck is the Republican running in HD-57 against state Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, getting substantial help from Texans for Lawsuit Reform and other groups who smell a chance to knock off one of the House's top Democratic leaders.

The mailers are similar, and relatively innocuous. "The Citizen Leader Alliance respects Republican Marva Beck because she knows that jobs are what Texans need, not more federal interference and unfunded federal mandates," says one mailer. Other than Beck's name, it's identical to the mailer sent to people in Legler's district (see attachment, above).

It doesn't include a political advertising disclaimer, and Meredith Simonton, the group's executive director and the treasurer for the CLA's political action committee, says it doesn't have to. It also doesn't have to disclose where the money that paid for the flyers came from. The relatively small PAC got $50,000 from Linbeck and from a handful of others, including Dick Weekly and Harlan, Stuart and Trammell S. Crow, who gave a combined $50,000. The PAC paid for mailings, internet services and polling during the primary on behalf of Jeff Cason, who unsuccessfully challenged Republican state Rep. Todd Smith of Euless.

But the PAC wasn't playing in the general election as recently as its Sept. 23 report. "The piece you saw was sent from CLA, our 501c4 entity," Simonton said via e-mail. "We are working on citizen education in various parts of the state, as it is our mission to educate citizens on public policy issues and to facilitate engagement in the policy process. We comply with all requirements made of 501c4 organizations. And, as a 501(c)4, we do not disclose a list of our donors. Leo Linbeck III serves as our president and our other board members are public record."

This post originally appeared in Texas Weekly 

Update (5:44 p.m.):
Add one more: The group also sponsored a flyer (identical except in name) in favor of state Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, R-Lexington, in HD-17. He's running against Democrat Pati Jacobs of Bastrop.

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