Thursday, February 23, 2012

Recall Petitions Invalidated Because Church Improperly Promoted Them

In Cook v. Tom Brown Ministries, (TX App., Feb. 17, 2012), a Texas state appeals court ordered the decertification of recall petitions that were circulated by Word of Life Church (WOL) in an effort to recall the mayor of El Paso and two city council members.The effort was undertaken after the mayor and the two council members supported restoring health care benefits that had been taken from some city employees by the Traditional Family Values Ordinance that limited benefits to city employees, their legal spouse and dependent children. (See prior posting.)  The court found that WOL had violated Texas election rules:
WOL Church, as a corporation, through the use of its website, promoted the circulation of recall petitions, created a portal whereby volunteers could register through WOL Church to circulate petitions, provided the facility and personnel to assist in the signing and circulation of the recall petitions, and notified the public that recall petitions were available for signing at WOL Church. The evidence establishes that WOL Church made campaign contributions from its own property in connection with a measure-only recall election without properly making the contributions to a measure-only committee ... and that WOL Church, a corporation, made a political contribution in connection with a recall election, including the circulation and submission of petitions to call an election, and failed to make such contribution to a political committee in violation of Sections 253.096 and 253.094(b) of the Election Code.
The court also held that the Texas restrictions on corporate involvement in elections is not inconsistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. The El Paso Times last week reported on the decision.