Texas House ethics panel takes no action on alleged redistricting threats by vice chair Phillips
Texas House ethics chair Chuck Hopson identified state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman — the committee’s vice chair — as the lawmaker who allegedly threatened state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, if Hughes did not continue to support House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. (Video from the Texas Tribune)
After the revelation, Phillips recused himself from his vice chairmanship of the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee hearing, and then went into closed session with the rest of the panel. The committee reconvened publicly in the afternoon, deciding to take no action on the complaint because Phillips denied making threats, and neither Hughes nor Phillips said he recorded the Nov. 5 call.
According to the Austin American-Statesman’s Postcards blog, Hopson said “there was insufficient information to determine that any misconduct occurred. But he said that the panel will continue to review the allegations and could act in the future.”
According to the Houston Chronicle’s Texas Politics blog, Hughes initially alleged: “This member brought up the subject of redistricting and explained to me how that process would be used to punish those members not on Speaker Straus’s list of supporters…More specifically, this member told me that maps were already being drawn to get rid of Representative-Elect Erwin Cain, R-Sulphur Springs and Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, because they were not on the Speaker’s list of supporters. I was then told that I had nothing to worry about in redistricting, so long as I stayed on the Speaker’s list.”
According to Postcards, Phillips’ read a statement saying: “Representative Hughes’ statement is unequivocally false…I did not tell Representative Hughes that maps were already being drawn to get rid of Representative-Elect Cain or Representative Flynn. I also did not tell Representative Hughes that there was a plan to use redistricting to punish those who were not on Speaker Straus’ support list.”
Straus is on the record as saying Hughes’ allegations are “outrageous,” as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s PoliTex blog noted
Texas Watchdog pointed out that Straus and the Texas House Leadership Fund gave Hopson $42,000 in campaign contributions this year. That has some Straus opponents, such as Texans for Fiscal Responsibility’s Michael Quinn Sullivan, crying out that the hearing seems like a “kangaroo court.”
Watchdog also said that Phillips received $5,000 in donations from Straus and the THLF, which Straus helped found.
Several incoming Texas House freshmen, and a few current GOP members, have pledged to support state Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, for House Speaker. While the Straus camp has seen a handful of defections, at last count Straus had the pledges of about 120 of the 150 members, with 76 votes needed to win the position.
Joe Straus, Warren Chisum and Ken Paxton (Photos: Office of the Speaker of the Texas House; Wikimedia Commons/Grayfoxjls; house.state.tx.us)