Millionaire trial lawyer/political activist Mostyn goes after journalism nonprofit Texas Watchdog (updated)

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TEXAS WATCHDOG reports tonight that several members of its staff have been subpoenaed by mega-rich trial lawyer and bigtime Texas political donor Steve Mostyn.

Mostyn’s gambit — seemingly the filthy-rich-trial-lawyer version of a temper tantrum — comes on the heels of a Texas Watchdog story about Mostyn’s $25,000 donation to a state lawmaker who wound up mediating a proceeding that involved… some of Mostyn’s clients. Although Mostyn has hurled accusations of political partisanship at Texas Watchdog, the complicating factor in that proposed narrative is the fact that the state lawmaker who received the donation is a Republican. As Texas Watchdog‘s Trent Seibert told the Quorum Report concerning the accusation, “If we’re a front group, we’re the worst front group of all time.”

Millionaire Mostyn himself mostly backs LibDem candidates — and in a big way. His Back To Basics PAC has been pounding Republican Governor Rick Perry for weeks. And taking a page from the Colorado Blueprint, Mostyn’s PAC has more recently gone on the attack against Jim Murphy, who is taking on Democratic State Representative and progressive darling Kristi Thibaut. The crowd that sometimes bellyaches about money in politics doesn’t seem to mind Mostyn’s activities (to the contrary!), but of course Mostyn’s on the right “team” (to use LibDem partyblogger parlance).

The filthy rich will always find a way to throw around their millions to exert political influence (even after untold campaign-finance “reforms” — shocking, we know!). However, it’s unfortunate when they start throwing around their millions in an effort to intimidate journalists. In fact, it’s shameful.

We’ve linked many Texas Watchdog stories, and respect the work they do. They’ve taken on Democrats, Republicans, bureaucrats, you name it — consistent with their stated mission. They are one of the more interesting experiments in nonprofit watchdog journalism, in a town that can definitely use that sort of journalism.

What Texas Watchdog‘s classy editor Jennifer Peebles didn’t emphasize in the report I linked above — but I will — is that their organization is a small, bootstrap startup. They don’t have a progressive activist‘s millions backing their operation. They don’t have a huge staff. There is no legal department. And dealing with this nuisance lawsuit is going to cost Texas Watchdog, in dollars (First Amendment lawyers don’t come cheap!) and in time (sitting in a deposition is time away from reporting).

We aren’t normally big on telling people what to do with their money, but I’m going to make an exception tonight. If you have enjoyed the reporting done by Texas Watchdog and are in a position to toss a few bucks their way to help them defend themselves against a rich bully, I would highly encourage you to click on that donation button in the top right corner of their site. Texas Watchdog is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so any donation should be tax deductible. If you’re not in a position to help them out financially, perhaps consider leaving a word of encouragement on their site.

UPDATE: Village Voice Houston had a post critical of Mostyn’s legal intimidation tactics on their blog earlier, but just like that *POOF* it was gone, without even a google cache of the full post remaining. WEAK.

UPDATE 2: And now, HOURS later, Village Voice Houston has put the post back up, with edits and an addendum. Frankly, the updated post has become something of a butchered, incoherent mess, not unlike so much of the amateur content that is regularly posted to the publication’s website now.

We may offer a more definitive post-mortem tomorrow, but the short of it seems to be that Mostyn finally called back Village Voice Houston, rattled their cage pretty good*, and scared them* into an embarrassing amount of equivocation — so much so that they seemed to have missed what was newsworthy about Mostyn’s latest attempt to bully journalists*: He’s backed down from his efforts to subpoena Texas Watchdog.

We imagine they’re celebrating that victory tonight over a LibDem bully and blowhard, but here’s hoping Texas Watchdog will have more to say about it tomorrow as well.

BLOGVERSATION: Harris County Almanac, Big Jolly Politics.

* Our interpretation of what most likely happened. For you overly-literal readers and thin-skinned lawyers who like to take writers to court, we were not there and are merely exercising our First Amendment rights by offering speculative opinion.


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Kevin Whited
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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX