You may have recently received correspondence from Mr. Richard Weekley, Chairman of Texans For Lawsuit Reform, regarding the “Fraud Against Texas Taxpayers Resolution.” I would appreciate a few moments of your time to address some of the accusations and misrepresentations Mr. Weekley makes.
First, I have had the opportunity to work alongside many of you for our shared conservative cause during my tenure on the State Republican Executive Committee. For those of you who I do not know, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mark McCaig and I have spent much of my life working in the Republican Party and on behalf of various conservative causes and candidates. I first became involved in the Republican Party as a high school student. While an 18 year old Senior in High School, I ran for my local school board because I felt the district was wasteful and inefficient. As a student at Texas A&M University, I became active in the Young Conservatives of Texas and College Republicans, holding statewide leadership positions in both of those organizations. After graduating from Texas A&M, I joined the staff of Congressman Tom DeLay, where I worked until his departure from office. In 2008, at the age of 25 and while still in law school, I was elected to the State Republican Executive Committee from SD 18. I held that position for two years and I continue to serve as a Republican precinct chairman in Fort Bend County. I am a proud conservative that believes strongly in the principles articulated in the Constitution and in the Republican Platform. I have never made a contribution to a Democrat, nor have I ever contributed to a Political Action Committee that makes contributions to Democrats.
I encourage each of you to take a very close look at the activities of Texans for Lawsuit Reform. While they attempt to portray themselves as conservatives, such claims are demonstrably false. They are nothing more than a self-interested special interest group that has actively worked against conservatives on many occasions. I have detailed much of this information on a new website, www.stoptlr.com. I encourage each of you to visit this website, watch our short video, and read the information presented. I hear frustrations on a regular basis (that I share) that wealthy special interest groups wield far too much power and influence at the Capitol and are responsible for the obstruction of conservative public policy. At www.stoptlr.com, I put a name and faces on these pernicious “special interests” that we hear and complain so much about.
Over the past several years, Texans For Lawsuit Reform has contributed nearly $3 million to Texas Democrats, including Democrats running against viable Republican candidates in the General election. The candidates that TLR has supported financially include some of the most prominent voices against legislation supported by the RPT including the sonogram bill, the sanctuary cities bill, and photo voter identification. TLR’s President, Dick Trabulsi, is the uncle of liberal Austin legislator Mark Strama (who has been funded by TLR against Republican challengers) and is a longtime supporter of Democratic candidates.
Mr. Weekley has himself made significant personal financial contributions to Democrats including Steve Wolens, Jessica Farrar, Juan Hinojosa, Garnet Coleman, Rodney Ellis, Judith Zaffirini, Mario Gallegos, Mike Villarreal, Eddie Lucio, David Farabee, Tara Rios Ybarra, Carol Alvarado, Patrick Rose, Ellen Cohen, Sylvester Turner, Ron Reynolds, Senfronia Thompson, John Whitmire, Rick Noriega, Leticia Van De Putte, Kino Flores, Frank Madla, Solomon Ortiz, Jr., Kevin Bailey, and Norma Chavez. Unless he has recently made a very large contribution that has yet to appear in public filings, Mr. Weekley has personally contributed more money to Democrats than he has to the Republican Party of Texas!
The Republican Party of Texas stands up for our platform proudly and without apology. This is able to happen because the RPT is run by, and accountable to, the grassroots conservative base that makes us so strong. We are not afraid to tackle issues such as protecting innocent human life, reducing the size and scope of government, opposing government bailouts and other taxpayer funded handouts, and the absolute necessity of securing our border. Unfortunately, taking strong and unequivocal stands on these and other issues carries a price.
As detailed at www.stoptlr.com and elsewhere, TLR’s largest contributors fought the efforts of RPT and other grassroots conservatives on the sanctuary cities bill and other important legislation regarding illegal immigration. Many of these donors have also benefitted from Solyndra-style handouts that have been opposed by RPT and others. It is precisely because the RPT and its leadership at all levels take principled conservative stands on issues important to the average Republican voter that Mr. Weekley and his associates at Texans for Lawsuit Reform choose to control the vast majority of their political contributions and activities through TLR and its Political Action Committee. TLR routinely receives and spends more money than the Republican Party of Texas because the RPT is held accountable by the grassroots while at TLR they are accountable only to themselves.
Texans For Lawsuit Reform fancies itself as a “shadow party” of sorts, engaging in candidate recruitment and other efforts that are traditionally handled by political parties and grassroots activists. A strong and vibrant Republican Party of Texas organization is in many ways a threat to special interest groups like TLR because when the Republican Party is impotent and/or ineffectual, groups like TLR can fill the void and increase their already substantial power and influence.
The Republican Party of Texas cannot and must not allow special interest groups like TLR to bully it or otherwise prevent it from continuing to remain an unapologetic advocate for conservative principles and voice for those in the grassroots. Mr. Weekley and his mega-donor associates already own and control TLR. We must not allow them to own or control the Republican Party of Texas and silence the already faint voice the average Texas conservative has in the public policymaking process.
The “Fraud Against Texas Taxpayers” Resolution is a solidly conservative, pro-taxpayer resolution and I stand behind it 100%. This resolution calls for a state law similar to the Federal False Claims act, which allows a whistleblower with knowledge of fraud committed against the government to bring suit against the alleged perpetrator of the fraud. The legislation amending the Federal False Claims Act to authorize these whistleblower lawsuits, known as “qui tam” lawsuits, as sponsored by Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa and signed in to law by President Reagan in 1986. According to figures from the Department of Justice, over $21 billion has been recovered as a result “qui tam” whistleblower lawsuits filed under the Federal False Claims Act. Untold billions more have been saved as a result of the deterrent effect the Federal False Claims Act has on preventing fraud.
In 1997, the Texas Legislature passed SB 30, which allowed for whistleblower “qui tam” lawsuits, such as those authorized by the Federal False Claims Act, in cases involving Medicaid fraud. This bill passed the House and Senate unanimously and was signed in to law by then-Governor George W. Bush. Since its passage, Texas taxpayers have recovered approximately $1 billion under the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention act through the hard work of Attorney General Greg Abbott and others. This legislation has been wildly successful in preventing and punishing Medicaid fraud and there is absolutely no evidence that it has been used as a vehicle for frivolous lawsuits. Just recently, Attorney General Abbott settled a “qui tam” lawsuit brought by a whistleblower under the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act against a pharmaceutical manufacturer for $158 million. Prominent pro-life activist Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee, has also filed a “qui tam” whistleblower lawsuit under the Federal False Claims Act and the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act against Planned Parenthood alleging Medicaid fraud.
In 2007, Republican state legislators offered SB 1309, a broad “qui tam” similar to the Federal False Claims Act, but applying to Texas state government, as called for in the “Fraud Against Texas Taxpayers Resolution.” The bill passed the Senate unanimously and was subsequently sent to the House Civil Practices Committee, where it also passed unanimously. Unfortunately, the bill died in the Calendars committee and did not receive a vote in the full House.
TLR’s claims that a “qui tam” law would open up the door to a flood of frivolous lawsuits are unfounded. Just this past legislative session, a “loser pays” bill supported by both TLR and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association was signed in to law making it even easier for frivolous lawsuits to be quickly dismissed in addition to strict sanctions that can be imposed on lawyers and litigants that file frivolous lawsuits. If the Texas legislature were to consider the kind of legislation endorsed by the “Fraud Against Texas Taxpayers Resolution” the end result should and almost certainly would include safeguards against its abuse.
The “Fraud Against Texas Taxpayers Resolution” does not reference any specific bill or legislative language- that’s the role of the legislature. It simply supports the concept that Texas taxpayers should have the same tools available to them to recover funds lost due to fraud at all levels of state government as they currently do at the Federal level under the Federal False Claims Act and at the state level in cases involving Medicaid fraud. Especially in the midst of a budget crisis, it is crucial to the continued financial wellbeing of Texas to have every tool possible at our disposal to prevent fraud and deprive those responsible for defrauding Texas taxpayers of their ill-gotten gains.
The Republican Party of Texas has been a leading voice supportive of fiscal restraint and taxpayer protection in state government and this resolution is in furtherance of those values. Mr. Weekley, as well as many other major donors to Texans For Lawsuit Reform, have financial interests in the construction industry. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out why they worked so hard against the Republican Party and the vast majority of Texas conservatives against the sanctuary cities bill and other legislation regarding illegal immigration. As I told a reporter when asked about this resolution and TLR’s subsequent response, why anybody, let alone an allegedly conservative organization like TLR would want to protect those who defraud Texas taxpayers is beyond my comprehension. The only people who should be afraid of this resolution are those who defraud or seek to defraud Texas taxpayers. I will not speculate as to TLR’s motives behind their vociferous opposition to this pro-taxpayer resolution and legislation that was supported by Ronald Reagan at the Federal level and passed unanimously by the Texas Senate in 2007.
Again, I encourage you to visit www.stoptlr.com to learn more about who the “Texans For Lawsuit Reform” really are, and to oppose this effort by a special interest group to wield inappropriate influence over the Republican Party of Texas. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about this letter, my resolution, or any other issue. Thank you all for your hard work and dedication to our Party and our principles.
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