Buried in the Texas Democratic Party’s campaign filing this week was a $210,000 deposit with a cryptic heading: “confidential litigation settlement.”
Party officials won’t say what it’s for. But sources close to them confirm the settlement is the resolution of the party’s lawsuit over a Republican consultant’s effort in 2010 to get the Green Party on the state ballot.
That year, when Democrat Bill White was set to take on Republican Rick Perry in the governor’s race, an unusual thing happened: The liberal Green Party received enough signatures to get on the ballot for the first time since 2002. The party met the threshold because it was gifted some 92,000 signatures — collected by an out-of-state balloting firm paid by a Republican-backed organization, in an effort orchestrated by an Arizona-based GOP consultant.
The Democratic Party — fearing the Republican-led effort could draw votes away from their candidates — filed suit against Free and Equal (the balloting firm), Take Initiative America (the organization that paid for the signature-gathering) and Tim Mooney (the consultant who orchestrated the effort), as well as the Green Party.
Meanwhile, speculation about Texas Republicans’ involvement surfaced. One theory linked Perry adviser Dave Carney to a group Mooney ran to collect signatures for 2004 Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader. (Carney said he played no role in the 2010 effort to get the Green Party on the ballot in Texas.)
During one court hearing, a University of Texas student testified that he was paid by former Perry chief of staff Mike Toomey to present the Green Party with a proposal for a fully funded petition drive. That petition drive wasn’t implemented, but a similar one was. (A spokeswoman for Toomey said he was never party to the litigation and was not aware of any settlement.)
But the headlines subsided — until this week’s campaign finance reports.
When asked about the settlement the Texas Democratic Party deferred, saying officials “cannot discuss litigation.”
Reached by phone, Mooney, the Arizona-based consultant, declined to comment on the settlement, but said that the lawsuit is over.
David Rogers, an attorney for the Texas Green Party, confirmed that the suit ended in settlement, but said it was largely between the Democratic Party and the Republican operatives involved. “We didn’t actively engage,” he said. “The Green Party is happy to be released from all the claims in this lawsuit.”
Christina Tobin, the president and founder of Chicago-based Free and Equal, confirmed the settlement; she signed it, and said its confidentiality agreement prohibits her from revealing details. But she said her petitioning firm got “caught in the middle of the war” between Republicans and Democrats in Texas, and called the lawsuit “just a soap opera between the parties.”
“We were hired and given money to put the Green Party on the ballot,” she said. “We didn’t do any favors for them.”
Republican Party of Texas officials stressed that they played no role in the lawsuit and didn’t spend a dime on the settlement.
“We never participated in any way and weren’t at any of the negotiations,” said Eric Opiela, the Republican Party of Texas’ assistant general counsel.