Fiscal conservative group aims at 3 North Texas GOP House members

Fiscal conservative group aims at 3 North Texas GOP House members

Austin oil and gas entrepreneur Bill Jones, founder of a company that does most of the Accountability First PAC’s work (Courtesy photo)

By ROBERT T. GARRETT

AUSTIN — A new fiscally conservative group that is trying to extend influence in Republican state House primaries has tipped its hand on which GOP incumbents it most wants to topple. All three are in North Texas.

The Accountability First Political Action Committee is spending heavily to defeat Reps. Diane Patrick of Arlington, Bennett Ratliff of Coppell and Angie Chen Button of Garland, according to the group’s latest report to the Texas Ethics Commission.

Between Jan. 24 and Saturday, the group donated nearly $40,000 to Tony Tinderholt of Arlington, Patrick’s opponent; $34,000 to Matt Rinaldi of Irving, who’s in a rematch with Ratliff; and $32,000 to former Sachse City Council member Jared Patterson, who’s trying to take out Button.

Its help was mainly in the form of paid block walkers, who help the committee’s favored candidates use sophisticated voter lists, also donated by the group.

The group surfaced last year, when it opposed several school and city bond and tax propositions.

Its founder, oil and natural gas entrepreneur James Jones of Austin, told The Dallas Morning News this month that it calls its own shots and exists only to promote limited government and individual responsibility.

Citics have said it’s working, implicitly if not directly, with other staunchly conservative groups that regularly clash with school boards and teachers’ organizations. For many, they complain, the goal is to oust House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, in part by helping staunch conservatives oust Straus loyalists.

In the latest reporting period, the group helped 25 House candidates, spending more than $280,000

It gave $2,500 to freshman Bedford GOP Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a fierce critic of Straus. Stickland was the fourth incumbent the group has helped. All enjoy strong tea party support.

Mostly, Accountability First has helped candidates for open House seats and opponents of Republican incumbents whom it deems too eager to raise money for schools or roads.

One is Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, an Irving Republican who has been a leading House transportation policy writer. In the past month, the committee gave her primary opponent, former Rep. Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie, more than $10,000 in cash and voter lists.

In Denton County, the group has targeted Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton. Straus has named Crownover to several key committees, and Denton insurance agent Read King is the choice of staunchly conservative groups to unseat her.

In the latest period, Accountability First gave King nearly $8,000 of cash and block walking lists and software.

For the entire campaign, the group’s contributions make up about 31 percent of his total contributions, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle. A Denton businessman has contributed another $15,000, or about 39 percent, the newspaper reported Wednesday.

Crownover, though, has far outpaced King in contributions, collecting $147,286 between…Continued here: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/headlines/20140225-fiscal-conservative-group-aims-at-3-north-texas-gop-house-members.ece

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