Looking more closely at that “nonpartisan” Houston voter outreach group

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BIG JOLLY posts about Houston Votes, a “nonpartisan” effort by the Texas Together nonprofit that aims to boost voter registration in Harris County.

The disappointing Texas Tribune played up the “nonpartisan” background of the group in a story back in June. Of course, tax-advantaged nonprofits are required to be technically nonpartisan, so those sorts of legal descriptions aren’t very helpful to readers.

Big Jolly notes that Fred Lewis, the public driver of the effort, likes to donate to lots of Dem and Progresssive causes. That’s easy research the Tribune reporter might have done, but didn’t. It’s a not-insignificant part of the story.

So, too, is the composition of the board of Texans Together: James Aldrete (Dem consultant based in Austin), Christopher Ashby (appointed by Bill Clinton to an ambassadorship, donor to Dems), Ann Del Llano (lobbyist, consultant, and activist for Progressive change), John Donisi (aide to former Governor Ann Richards, Dem supporter), Cris Feldman (Dem Party attorney who pursued action against Tom DeLay), Rita Lucido (Progressive/Dem donor, onetime board member of Planned Parenthood), Keir Murray (Dem consultant), Andres Pereira (self-described “longtime Democratic activist”), Keith Wade (Dem consultant).

Certainly, there’s nothing illegal about a Progressive nonprofit working to boost Harris County election turnout by registering voters via a legally “nonpartisan” front group staffed by Dems and Progressive activists (heck, maybe conservatives with deep pockets should give this sort of “grow the vote” electioneering a try — but they should be careful not to get sued by a Texans Together board member!). However, media organizations* could do a much better job of identifying the interests behind such organizations, especially when it requires so little effort.

* Of course, Texas Tribune itself was born as the vanity project of a Dem activist/donor with millions of dollars apparently burning a hole in his pocket, so maybe more junior colleagues there just don’t consider it all that important.


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Kevin Whited
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