Emails Reveal Joe Straus Let TLR Influence Texas Redistricting Process
Emails that have recently been made public reveal that Texans For Lawsuit Reform (TLR) played a pivotal role in the new redistricting map of Texas. These emails indicate that TLR was involved in the development and passage of the map and that it had a close working relationship with Texas House Speaker Joe Straus in the redistricting process. These emails also showed TLR’s President, a Democratic activist, coordinating a campaign that promoted the redistricting map.
The release of this correspondence between TLR and Straus’ Top Staff is causing controversy among grassroots activists who consider it as being dismissive to the efforts for fair redistricting. Not only is the content of these emails controversial, but it also lends credence to the conservative efforts regarding the redistricting process during the last legislative session. David Simpson, who just announced his candidacy for Speaker of the Texas House, stated that he was “pretty dismayed” with what the records in the Texas redistricting litigation indicated.
One of the active players in the drawing process was Mike Hull, a lawyer and lobbyist for TLR. Hull is identified as “TLR Counsel” in publications and has worked closely with TLR in the redistricting process. Hull has been known for opposing conservatives in the Texas legislator. He battled such legislation as the “Prenatal Protection Act,” which placed him on the same side as Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, NOW, and the Texas Abortion and Reproductive Rights League.
According to a sworn deposition, State Representative Raul Torres testified that Hull attended two meetings with State Representative Todd Hunter regarding the redistricting of Nueces County. Torres also stated that Hull was “doing some work” for TLR. Todd Hunter is a close ally of Speaker Joe Straus and has been working side-by-side with Hull. Hull even had a meeting with Hunter’s staff and a member from Straus’ staff as well. According to an email exchange dated February 18, 2011, Hull invited Gerardo Interiano to a meeting with Hull and Rep. Hunter’s staff, which took place in Hull’s office. Interiano, a member of Speaker Straus’ staff who was working on the redistricting maps, replied “yes.” This is among the several email exchanges between Hull and Interiano regarding the redistricting matters. Hull wasn’t just working with Interiano, but also with Scott Sims, who Hull hired to work for TLR as a “consultant” on redistricting. Hull and Sims from TLR and Interiano from Straus’ staff were working together for redistricting purposes.
Hull was also working with TLR President and Democratic activist Dick Trabulsi on the matter of redistricting. Both Hull and Trabulsi opposed the redistricting map that was drawn by State Representative Joe Nixon. Trabulsi even sent an e-mail to Straus’ Chief of Staff claiming that the map was “not a legal one.” He then drafted a statement from TLR regarding redistricting and sent it to Straus’ staff as well as Hull for them to review the draft and give advice as to when and how TLR should distribute the statement.
These recently surfaced emails show how Texans For Lawsuit Reform has worked to undermine the work of conservative activists on fair redistricting. The State of Texas should be concerned with how a special interest lobby group was allowed such influence during the redistricting process.