The maternal grandmother of American Phoenix Foundation director of investigations Hannah Giles is Terese Raia, a former State Republican Executive Committee member from Sugar Land. Raia remains politically active in party politics, as well as with groups such as Ralph Reed’s Faith and Family Coalition. Recently, when the Texas House passed a resolution honoring Raia’s late husband Sam, Hannah and her husband Joseph Basel attended along with their new-born baby Hamish. Social media lit up that the baby was fake doll and actually was a hidden camera. They “give us too much credit,” Giles told me when I mentioned it. Giles and her husband are managing a hidden camera investigation of state legislators.
RGR: Your grandmother is a former SREC member and last year endorsed Dan Patrick, Paul Bettencourt, Glenn Hegar for comptroller. Is that any kind of a conflict of interest?
JB: It hasn’t been for our decision-making.
HG: She’s not super excited about our project right now.
RGR: Giles explained that a Houston Chronicle article on the resolution at first had a headline that said the House had honored Giles instead of her grandfather. “My grandmother was really upset with the original title on that article.”
HG: When I did the ACORN investigation, right before I went to flew to California, I was in Houston with my grandma, and didn’t want to tell here, but my mom was like Hannah, you need to tell your Noni what you’ve been doing this summer. So I told her, and my grandmother took me upstairs and pulled out all her old files on Saul Alinksi when he came to Houston to first start organizing. So I got to did through all her old files and do research on Alinski.
But I don’t vote. My grandma would not be happy that I don’t vote.”
RGR: But given the fact that there are people over there at the Capitol who she’s publicly endorsed, does that create a conflict on interest?
JB: If anything, we would increase our scrutiny.
HG: I know Dan Patrick and Bettencourt through my grandma. That’s how I met them. Dan Patrick, after ACORN and after forming Phoenix, had me on his radio show, super excited (about) this new wave of journalism and undercover investigations. And like I said, Bettencourt raised money for my defense fund. Now, they’re the guys who are pushing this bill to make Texas a two-party consent state.
I don’t have relationships with those men, but I have come in contact with them.”
Giles and Basel are trying to find a video recording of a 2010 Fort Bend Rally for Faith and Freedom because Bettencourt was there raising money for her defense against lawsuits that occurred after she participated in a hidden camera with activist James O’Keefe. One of the issues was whether they had permission of all the parties involved in the conversation to record it. Texas currently only requires one party to know the conversation is being recorded, but Bettencourt is carrying SB 1223 to require all parties to know about a recording. (NOTE: Hannah Giles contacted me after this was published to say Bettencourt raised money for her at a private function in 2009 and that it did not involve the Faith and Freedom rally.)
JB: Fundraise to fight two-party consent lawsuits in other states. Now, he’s running the bill in Texas to make it a two-party consent or all-party consent state. It’s kind of humorous. He went to fundraising for Hannah to, now that he’s worried, running a bill to make the footage illegal after the fact.”
HG: In all fairness he had that bill before he knew about our stuff.