Letter to the Editor: Somervell County Anti-Tax Brigade violates Texas Election Code laws

accesories-text-editor-hiWell now, Mr. Wayne Widner saw fit to respond to my last letter. Guess he felt like he had to after my accusations about him. He states that he is not the Billy Wayne Widner whom I found to be a registered voter in Hood County, but that was the only Wayne Widner that I could find anywhere around this county.

Mr. Widner states that he does not own any property in Somervell County, but  I already knew that after a check of our CAD (Central Appraisal District) website. He says that he has several relatives who do own land in Somervell County; however, none of them must share his last name because there are no Widners who own any property (other than one who owns some mineral interests, but no “surface rights”).

The thing that I find really odd about this is that there is no one named Widner (Wayne or otherwise) who is registered to vote in this county!  If you do, in fact, live in this county and you’re so involved in this “Anti-Tax Brigade” campaign against the creation of a Hospital District, “Mr. Widner,” then why aren’t you even registered to vote here?  Very strange, indeed.

I have simply come to the conclusion that there is no real “Wayne Widner” living in this county, which presents a real problem in all of this. You see, under Section 255.005 of the Texas Election Code, it is a Class “A” misdemeanor for a person to attempt to influence the outcome of an election, when that person misrepresents the person’s identity, or if acting or purporting to act as an agent, misrepresents the identity of the agent’s principal.  A Class “A” misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $4000, one year in jail, or both.

This got me to thinking that I should do a bit more research in the Texas Election Code in connection with the activities of the “Brigade,” so I did. And here’s a list of  what I have found:

1) If you are going to run political ads that are for or against a local action, then the person or the group (such as a Political Action Committee) must file with the County Clerk’s Office (in Somervell County it is the voter registrar) and must name a campaign treasurer (See Sections 252.001 and 252.002 of the Texas Election Code).  The appointment must include the campaign treasurer’s name, residence or business street address, telephone number and the name of the person making the appointment.  This has not been done on behalf of the “Brigade.”

If a Political Action Committee (PAC) has not filed the reports required by Chapter 254 of the Code, it is ineligible to appoint a campaign treasurer. No reports as required by that chapter have been filed by the “Brigade,” therefore, it/they cannot legally appoint a campaign treasurer. This violation is a Class “B” misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, 180 days in jail, or both.  (See Section 252.0011)

2) If a PAC accepts $500 or more in contributions or makes $500 or more in expenditures when there is no campaign treasurer, then it is a Class “A” misdemeanor and is subject to a fine of up to $4,000, one year in jail, or both. (Section 253.031)  According to the advertising rates of the Glen Rose Reporter, the “Brigade” has indeed spent at least $500 on its advertising so far (six quarter-page ads as of 4/18/13).

3)  A campaign treasurer must keep a record of all reportable activity.  A failure to do so subjects the person to a Class “B” misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both. (See Section 254.001)

4)  Under Section 254.124 of the Election Code, a “Committee Opposing a Measure” must file two reports, the first of which must be filed not later the 30th day before the election (which date has already passed) and the second report must be filed not later than the eighth day before the election date.  A failure to do this is a Class “C” misdemeanor and is subject to a fine only of up to $500.

5)  In addition, under Section 254.231, a PAC which fails to file the required reports is subject to a civil action which could result in “damages,” which are defined as “twice the amount required to be reported and which was not reported, together with reasonable attorney’s fees.”

6)  Finally, Section 255.001 provides that a person may not knowingly publish or cause to be published advertising that does not indicate the advertising 1) is political advertising; and 2) the full name of: (A) the person who paid for the political advertising; or (B) the political committee authorizing the political advertising. A violation of this provision is subject to a civil penalty of up to $4000, as determined by the Texas Ethics Committee.

Now, like I said, it is my opinion that there is no real “Wayne Widner” living in this County. If you do, in fact, exist, Mr. Widner, then I demand that you contact me (my number is in the phone book) and arrange to meet me at the Somervell County Sheriff’s Office. You may set the time and the date, but please bring a photo I.D. with you.  Your failure to appear shall be deemed conclusive proof of your “non-existence.”

Now, if there is no real “Wayne Widner,” and if reports that I have received from various people telling me that they know who is behind this (Mr. 254-396-0956), then I’ll tell you something, Mr.: you’re not as smart as you think you are — yeah, your cell phone may be a “pre-paid” phone and “untraceable” – and you may be paying cash for your ads, so there’s no “trail” left behind, but you forgot one very important item:  the LAW.  Not really very smart!  We will find out who you really are.  That’s a promise.

I’ll just end this by saying that you have a right to be for or against whatever you want to be for or against – be it a political candidate or a political measure. But you should have a good reason for voting for or against that person or measure in the election — and, you should also follow the law. Our laws do not allow for “phantom campaigns” by “shadow” people.  You’re not allowed to attack a person or a proposal and be free from questioning by simply remaining anonymous.

You have been given enough rope to hang yourself with and you have done an admirable job of it.  However, you will not receive any reward for your efforts;  instead you will have to stand accountable for your transgressions of the law.

See you in court!

Ron Hankins

Former Somervell County Attorney

 

 

One Response to Letter to the Editor: Somervell County Anti-Tax Brigade violates Texas Election Code laws

  1. Darrell Best Reply

    April 23, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    Excellent letter Mr. Hankins.

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