Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Conflict of interest in Harris County's voter registration office

You actually thought that when Paul Bettencourt suddenly resigned, and the Texas Democratic Party's lawsuit revealed his voter registration shenanigans (recall the Wite-Out Caper?) that they were cleaning up their act over there? Well, you were wrong:

"This is as blatant a case of election corruption that I have seen,” said Matt Angle of the Lone Star Project, a Democrat activist group.

The Lone Star Project’s complaint revolves around Ed Johnson.

Johnson is the associate voter registrar at the Harris County Tax Assessor Collectors office, but according to state documents, that's just his day job. Johnson is also a paid director of a small company that provides voter data to Republican candidates for office. That company, Campaign Data Systems, billed at least $140,000 in 2008.

"It gets to the fundamental rights in a democracy and that is the right to participate in an election. You've got an individual who has got a partisan axe to grind and that person is determining who gets to vote and who doesn't," Angle said.

No one from the Assessor-Collector's office would comment on the accusation. According to them, this is because a lawsuit against the office that was filed after last year’s General Election could be affected.

As usual, it's not so much the crime as the cover-up:

"The fact that it has a (negative) appearance could have a chilling effect on voter’s confidence," said 11 News Political Expert Bob Stein

Stein says that there is no sign of any legal ethics violation from the documents he has seen, but they could be viewed negatively.

"I think that these are legitimate activities, partisan activities none the less. But the fact that he is not disclosing them and did not think to disclose them, probably raises questions whether he even thought it might be embarrassing to his employer," Stein said.

Already some political adversaries are speaking out.

"That is corruption by definition. You shouldn't have election officials that moonlight as partisan political hacks,” Angle said.

Stein would not go that far, but did say that “at the very least, it was a very embarrassing and awkward position."

Ed Johnson -- recall his testimony on Voter ID, and that of his consort George Hammerlein during the last legislative session -- has to be fired immediately by tax assessor-collector Leo Vasquez. And that would be only a necessary first step.

Charles Kuffner elaborates on the incriminating connection: Johnson's moonlight employer is owned by Rep. Dwayne Bohac. Bohac, like most of the rest of the hard-right in the Texas Lege, humped Voter ID to the detriment of thousands of pieces of important legislation.

And that's the latest accomplishment brought to you once again by the alumni of the Tom DeLay School of Advanced Political Corruption.

Update: See the KHOU video report. And read the Lone Star Project's comprehensive report on the entire sordid affair.

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