Some career Texas politicians on the left and right, who’ve been doing creepy crap, should start sweating their creepy ass off.
AUSTIN – An Austin-based nonprofit with ties to activists arrested in the past for targeting legislators in other states has collected hundreds of hours of secretly recorded video footage of Texas lawmakers to use against them in the upcoming election cycle, a representative from the group confirmed Tuesday.
The undercover video campaign represents a new front by conservative groups to target moderate Republicans and tilt the Texas Legislature further to the right.
Several House Republican lawmakers already have expressed concerns with some of the group’s tactics, saying they aggressively were approached last week – inside and outside the Capitol – by men who used hidden cameras to secretly videotape a series of encounters that has raised alarms for Capitol security.
John Beria, spokesman for Austin-based nonprofit the American Phoenix Foundation, said the group has 16 staffers working on the project and has amassed more than 800 hours of covert footage of lawmakers, including “guys confessing to pretty serious criminal acts.”
The group intends to begin releasing the information in the next several weeks and months, a key time frame as the legislative session comes to an end and lawmakers begin to plot for the primary season.
“We’re going for the people who are notorious in some of their actions. And so the people who are doing the shady business deals and the people who are doing the nefarious things around town, those are the people we spend our time on,” Beria said.
Last week’s encounters at the Capitol were described by lawmakers as attempts to provoke responses on hot-button policy issues, along with questions about Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, a consistent target of criticism in tea party circles.
Lawmakers said cameras were disguised as lapel pins or hidden in a briefcase, and some characterized the incidents as harassment because the men repeatedly pursued legislators through the hallways of the Capitol and off Capitol grounds. One lawmaker was approached while eating dinner with his wife at a Tex-Mex restaurant in downtown Austin.
“It’s like they were almost stalking us,” said Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, who navigated a detour through the Capitol with another female lawmaker last Friday to avoid the group.
Beria confirmed the “visionary” behind the program to collect secret footage of state lawmakers is Joseph Basel, the CEO of C3 Strategies, an Austin-based consulting firm that worked on the campaigns of state Sens. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and Konni Burton, R-Fort Worth.
Basel said none of the taping was done through C3, and that his consulting clients were not involved in any way.
Read more: The Houston Chronicle
From the Dallas Morning News:
Update at 4:51 p.m.: Includes project leader Joe Basel’s refusal to name major donors and additional material from spokesmen for the foundation and DPS.
Original item at 4:14 p.m.: A conservative group calling itself “investigative journalists” has been following — and secretly videotaping — Texas state legislators for six months in a bid to expose “hypocrisy,” a spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
The American Phoenix Foundation hired 16 people to confront and tape lawmakers in and around the Texas Capitol, said John Beria.
“We wanted to send a team down to Austin that would document some of the moral failings and hypocrisy of some of the legislators and lobbyists — and Austin culture in general,” Beria said. “Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal, whatever — it doesn’t matter what label they wear. We just want to find the hypocrites.”
Last week, Department of Public Safety officers stopped members of the “Phoenix” investigative team for questioning after receiving complaints by House members of harassment. No arrests were made. DPS spokesman Tom Vinger, asked about the incident, said, “DPS does not discuss security-related matters.”
Team members have stopped lawmakers in Capitol hallways to ask pointed questions, both about hot-button issues such as abortion and immigration but also in some cases about their sex lives. In one instance, an unidentified member of the team confronted a House lawmaker and his wife at an Austin restaurant, according to a senior Capitol aide.