Two special prosecutors—one Republican, one Democrat—were asked to investigate the complaint filed for a highly political case between the red and blue parties in Texas. Democratic outreach group Battleground Texas was accused of illegal activity in a conservative filmmaker’s video, prompting Republican leaders to call for a criminal investigation as outlined in this My San Antonio Online article. Although a state judge threw out the complaint, it didn’t escape the notice of the San Antonio lawyers aware of the state’s current electoral politics.
Both Attorney General Greg Abbot and the Bexar County district attorney are running for election this year, so the investigation was handed to special prosecutors of each party to make a balanced inquiry into the complaint. Originating in the video made by Project Veritas, the complaint was based off footage that heavily suggested Battleground Texas members were transcribing telephone numbers from collected voter registration cards. Keen-eared San Antonio lawyers note that it was conservative activist James O’Keefe who said in the video that taking phone numbers violated Texas law. Just to be on the safe side (or the prosecutorial one), Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst initiated the criminal investigation.
Special prosecutors John Economidy and Christine Del Prado told the Associated Press that they found nothing that suggested that Battleground Texas violated state election law “by transcribing number submitted on voter registration forms.” Their findings were reported in an 18-page brief that concluded Battleground Texas’ activities “were legal and keeping with standard electioneering practices used by both political parties for decades,” and was convincing enough that San Antonio State Judge Raymond Angelini signed the dismissal without comment last week.
San Antonio lawyers appreciate the way Economidy was pretty clear in his statements to the press about the legality of Battleground Texas’ tactics: “The law is or it isn’t. It either fits or it doesn’t fit, and it didn’t fit one bit.” Although sounding a little like Dr. Seuss in this comment, Economidy goes on to call the Project Veritas video “little more than canard and political disinformation” and “particularly unprofessional.” That’s the statement from the Republican special prosecutor in Texas.
This story raises some questions about political parties in Texas, and more than the ones Lt. Gov. Dewhurst wanted to ask about Battleground Texas. San Antonio lawyers might be wondering whether the criminal investigation was worth the state funds it cost, and how much impact the investigation itself, including the publicity surrounding it, had on the electoral politics in the state for the election year. Calling for a criminal investigation for a political party is a pretty subversive move, and a brilliantly sly way to undermine the validity and integrity of the Democratic Party, even when the investigation is dismissed.
With a reputation for everything being bigger in Texas (y’all,) and for friendliness of its folk, it seems as though in the case of Battleground Texas, its friendliness doesn’t extend to Democrats—though the investigation sure “went big.” It’s unclear, though, whether the Democratic outreach organization didn’t start the fight: this battle, at least, may have been an eponymous one.