Despite efforts by grassroots organizations, new media writers and others, most of the coordinated efforts against conservatives by Straus and his allies regarding Texas redistricting have been hidden from view. Speaker Straus has exerted various privileges and exemptions to keep the public from seeing emails or any other evidence of their activities. In fact, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has most or all the emails because of the re-districting litigation, but has not released them at the apparent request of his client, the Speaker. However, in a batch of emails RedState has managed to get hold of (through other sources), it has become clear that Straus’ key strategists were openly hostile to conservatives. In particular, his top confidant Gordon Johnson (a Straus horseracing partner and former lobbyist) was clearly running the show — not the speaker’s chief of staff or other official office members.
It’s not hard to see why the Straus operation would rather not have these emails in public view. In them Tea party activists are referred to as “idiots,” and supporters of Joe Barton are deemed “motherf***ers.” Erickson writes,
These e-mails from the redistricting process shed new light on just how dismissive the Straus team was of Republican Party and conservative efforts to draw more fair districts – and should serve as a warning bell to the new House that it is time for Straus to go. When the state’s Republican Executive Committee expressed concerns about the maps drawn for the state’s board of education, Straus lawyer and failed legislative candidate Eric Opiela expressed disdain for committee chairman (and Tea Party activist) Jason Moore in an email to other Straus allies, sarcastically saying, “need I say more.” Straus’ legal counsel said he did not “really trust” Moore – presumably because — in the words of Mr. Johnson — Moore “gave us hell.” In fact, the Straus team had far more than just distrust for conservative input. Two long-standing House members — Wayne Christian, of Center, and Phil King, of Weatherford — were talking with members about ways to improve the maps. But Straus confidant and redistricting committee chairman Burt Solomons of Carrollton would hear none of it. In an email to Straus’ chief of staff, Denise Davis, he wrote: “Just got up… f**k Wayne & Phil. Let’s go to the Floor.” Straus’ official counsel replied, “Couldn’t agree more.” While Straus’ chief of staff, Denise Davis, wrote approvingly, “I love Burt!”
[My comments–pb] This makes for sensational reading, but it’s really just politics as usual. No one who follows the Texas House of Representatives would be surprised that Straus supporters would be eager to place Wayne Christian in a district he would have a hard time winning, or that they were openly antagonistic toward him amongst themselves. The same would likely be true of other conservatives who have not supported Straus, such as Jim Landtroop. From the moment Straus became speaker in 2009, ideological conservatives and conservative groups outside the Capitol have been bent on undermining him.
In one mid-June 2011 e-mail, Gordon Johnson refers to decorated Marine hero and State Rep. Van Taylor of Plano as “stupid” and “impolite” for having posted to Twitter news that a senior lawmaker wasn’t going to give early support to Straus. The problem was that legislators clearly knew supporting Joe Straus was politically dangerous leaving the 2011 legislative session and preparing for 2012’s elections. (As noted, record numbers of Straus allies lost re-election bids, while others — like Mr. Solomons — chose to retire rather than lose primaries.) As a result, House members refused to sign the traditional “pledge cards” to the incumbent speaker for the next session. Similarly, when Straus adviser Eric Opiela forwarded along information from a Tea Party activist, Straus consultant and close friend Gordon Johnson wrote that they were “doing battle with idiots.” Apparently one such “idiot” was Kaufman County Tea Party chairman Ray Myers who called Straus’ office upset by the previously mentioned pairing of Mr. Flynn and Mr. Cain. An email describing the call by Straus aide Tyler Rutherford inconveniently noted that Myers said House Speaker Joe Straus “promised through a surrogate not to do this.” Reminding Mr. Straus and his allies of their promises clearly wasn’t welcome. Another person helping the Straus team draw maps was Lee Padilla, the “Central-West Regional Political Director” for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Apparently he and others on the Straus team did not like getting input from the friends of US Rep. Joe Barton. He referred to them as “Barton mother f**kers.”
[My commentary — pb] I suppose the lesson here is: Be careful what you put in writing, especially in the digital age, when what you write is preserved forever. What might haunt Straus is not who he is for or against, but the crudeness of the language. It’s hardly a surprise that the Straus team would want to draw hard-to-win districts for Christian and Landtroop, two of the most extreme conservatives in the House, neither of whom had supported Straus for speaker. This is politics, after all, and no politician worth his salt would pass up the opportunity to get rid of a thorn in his side like Christian. You have to reward your friends and punish your enemies, and redistricting offers the best chance to do so. [my commentary — pb] There is no doubt that the House in 2011 was a battleground fought over by mainstream Republicans who form the core of the Straus team and tea party Republicans who fought for budget cuts and social conservative issues. If anything, the House became more conservative as a result of the primary and runoff elections. The stage is set for another battle between the Straus forces and the tea party forces in 2013, and the RedState emails can only add fuel to the fire. [Editor’s note: this post has been updated since it was originally published.]