Former Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones’s primary challenge to San Antonio Republican state senator Jeff Wentworth has been built on the deep pockets of Texans for Lawsuit Reform. Now, with the May 29 election looming, Wentworth is suing her.
As Reeve Hamilton of the Texas Tribune reported, Wentworth, who is also an attorney, has taken issue with a Jones campaign ad that accuses of him of double-billing travel expenses (“including gasoline to fill his Lexus,” the clip unsubtly emphasizes) to both his campaign and the state. Wentworth says he has handled the reporting and the reimbursement of those monies properly.
“To be falsely accused of committing a crime is over the line of political discourse and has forced me into filing this defamation suit against Jones,” Wentworth’s statement said. “I filed this lawsuit to defend my honor and the integrity of our democracy.”
The legal filing (PDF) also says that any damages awarded “shall be donated to non-profit or charitable organizations to encourage elevated, decent political discourse in political campaigns.”
As Allison Sandza of YNN Austin pointed out, this is actually the second time Wentworth has filed a defamation lawsuit against a political opponent. Wentworth also sued his 2002 primary opponent, then-state representative John Shields, because of an allegedly misleading and defamatory television spot.
The new lawsuit is pretty much “a note-for-note simulation,” wrote Gilbert Garcia of Plaza de Armas, “down to Wentworth’s complaint about his opponent’s ad exceeding the bounds of typical campaign distortions, and his promise to donate any damages he may collect.”
Wentworth dropped the suit, on the grounds that ‘the defamatory and libelous statements on which this suit was based did not have their intended effect’—Wentworth won—and because Shields ‘corrected’ some of the things he said about Wentworth.
Then as now, any possible court date would likely be well after the election.
But apparently two lawsuits are better than one: according to Hamilton, Jones was planning to file a counterclaim on Friday morning. She said in a statement that “truth is an absolute defense, and my television ads are true.”
Which is the funny thing about your average lawsuit–it never seems too frivolous when you’re the person filing it and you believe you’re in the right.
Below, the Jones clip in question: