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February 13, 2014

Putting The Pieces Together After The Harrris County GOP Executive Committee Meeting

Over the last month or so, there have been a number of things that have gone on in Republican circles that have not set well with many Harris County (and Texas generally) Republicans. A lot of it has had to do with the “pay to play” slatemakers and their negative impact the political process here in Harris County. Well, some of the pieces fell into place for me after Tuesday night’s meeting of the Harris County Republican Executive Committee, and as I have thought about them over the last couple days, I’ve become more troubled and felt a need to share those observations. After talking with a number of individuals I respect within Republican circles in the Houston area and outside of them, it became clear to me that I need to write a post about them.

First, let’s set out some of the pieces for you.

  1. Terry Lowry, Precinct Chair for Precinct 485 and host of the What’s Up Radio Program is member of the Harris County GOP Vacancy Committee, appointed to the committee by Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill.
  2. In October of 2013, the Harris County Republican Party paid Lowry’s radio program $5000 for precinct chair recruitment.
  3. By everyone’s accounting, this recruitment effort led to the recruitment of fewer than 50 (perhaps as few as 25) new precinct chairs, which raises the question of its effectiveness.

So, let’s fast forward to the quarterly meeting of the Executive Committee on February 11, 2014. There were certainly some strange goings on related to the Vacancy Committee and Lowry’s recruitment effort that evening. I only wish that these meetings were recorded and posted on the internet so that I could provide audio and/or video for you to see just how strange.

The Vacancy Committee had no report to make at the meeting – hardly surprising, given that appointing new chairs just weeks before the date for electing chairs in the March primary would be absurd. Instead of reporting that there was no report, the committee’s time was divided up between two speakers. I will not comment on one of them, as it has no real bearing on this piece. But the other speaker was none other than Terry Lowry, who spent at least 20 minutes engaged in a rambling explanation of how he had personally spent his own money to get materials and do research on vacant precincts and where recruitment efforts were needed. Frankly, I would have stood up and applauded Lowry’s efforts if I hadn’t known that he did get paid for these efforts – heck, I would have proposed a resolution naming him volunteer of the year for having done so much work. And then came the bombshell.

Lowry suddenly veered off into how he told Jared Woodfill about his efforts and that soon Jared – implicitly just out of the blue – sent him a check for $5000 to pay for his efforts. But it wasn’t long before Lowry started making it clear that he doesn’t do any work on anyone’s behalf for free and that he expects to be paid for anything he does – an interesting stance for someone who is supposedly a volunteer on a committee that is charged with recruiting precinct chairs to fill vacant positions! But in my mind this raises a question – if this was Lowry doing work on his own without any sort of contract or agreement with the Harris County GOP, on what basis did Woodfill have the party cut a check to Lowry? Moreover, if this was Lowry’s personal effort, why was the money directed to Lowry’s business? Is it the practice of the Harris County GOP to make such payments to volunteers for their volunteer work? And on what basis was that nice round figure of $5000 arrived at when the decision was made to write that check to Lowry’s company?

Now let’s jump a little further ahead in the meeting. A resolution was introduced to have a report on the matter created and put on the party website. Dates were argued over and questions of whether this was a thinly veiled attack on one candidate for party chairman on behalf of another candidate for party chairman were raised. I won’t bore you with the “inside baseball” details – they aren’t necessary to understand what went on. The pertinent aspect was that someone raised the question about whether the records in question – how the $5000 was spent, what precincts were targeted, what materials were produced and a transcript of the robocalls – were in the hands of the Harris County Republican Party so that a report could be produced and the information posted. The answer? No, the party has none of that. Where are those things? In the hands of Terry Lowry. At which point Lowry stood up and informed the body that he has the material, he’s keeping the material, and “nobody can make me do jack.” In other words, $5000 of our party funds were turned over to Terry Lowry and there is absolutely no accountability or oversight regarding the money and how it was used. At that point the resolution was tabled, because it appeared to be a pointless exercise that was doing nothing but causing division within the Executive Committee.

What followed next was the effort to introduce and pass the resolution that I posted on this website on Tuesday night. Dave Jennings at Big Jolly does a fantastic job of recounting the efforts made by Lowry and others to prevent it from being brought to the floor, much less voted upon, and I encourage you to read it. It is tangentially related to the issue of the $5000 given to Lowry in that it addressed Lowry’s efforts to personally profit off of his endorsements. Suffice it to say that Terry Lowry seems to regard the Harris County Republican Party and its primary as his own personal cash cow, and therefore they tried to shut down a resolution designed to take a stand for the integrity of the Republican Primary and elections generally.

All of this leads me to make a couple of points.

First, we need to clean house at party headquarters. As much as I like Jared Woodfill as an individual, he has to go as party chairman. I’ve believed this for several years now, and that is why I am again backing Paul Simpson for Harris County Republican Party Chair and encouraging others to do the same. We need new leadership to set the party’s financial house in order. We need a full audit of the books, the public disclosure of the results, and new procedures put in place to make sure we don’t find ourselves in this state again. Oh, yeah – and appropriate action taken against offending parties when and if actual wrongdoing is uncovered.

Secondly, we need to continue to work to reduce the influence of folks like Terry Lowry on the Harris County Republican Party. I’m not saying that he is a bad or evil man. I mean, the scribes and Pharisees were certainly upstanding members of their communities, and the moneychangers at the Temple in Jerusalem were just trying to earn enough cash to pay their wives’ bills. But sometimes radical action needs to happen for the greater good – and if that means afflicting the self-righteous and overturning a few tables so as to destroy a business model that profits the Establishment at the expense of the greater good, then so be it because we have a great role model who did the same a couple thousand years ago.

WhatWouldJesusDo[1].jpg

Oh, and there is a third thing as well. We need to start following the advice of Rand Paul that he gave in his speech here in town last weekend. We need to be open to the diverse voices in our communities and our party. That does not mean abandoning principle, but rather presenting those principles in new ways that are welcome instead of barring the door to those who are deemed to be less pure than Ivory Soap. It means that our outreach has to be real and inclusive – based upon Ronald Reagan’s principle that those who are with us 80% of the time are our friends and allies rather than 20% traitors who need to be purged from the GOP and any public office they may hold. If we don’t, it means that Texas will soon be like Illinois or California – a formerly red state that has moved into the blue column for the foreseeable future.






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I believe the reason the payment is in the amount of $5000 is that that is the maximum amount the Chairman can personally authorize without a vote of the Advisory Board. There was some discussion of this in a resolution earlier in the meeting from the audit/oversight committee.

Party officials have previously stated that David Riddle, Chair of SD 7, and Jared Woodfill have a copy of the mailer sent out in their possession.

|| Posted by Mainstream, February 13, 2014 11:13 PM ||

Yeah -- but Elizabeth Dillon told us that she and the party do not have that material. Why didn't Jared speak up and offer his own copies?

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, February 14, 2014 12:26 AM ||

I have 3 kids and I know a temper tantrum when I see one. Terry Lowry was throwing a huge temper tantrum at the Executive Meeting and he wasn't going show anyone anything.

Time to put these folks in "time out". Good ole butt whipping is what they need

|| Posted by Big Mama, February 14, 2014 04:41 PM ||

Greg, fantastic job on the resolution, and on this write-up as well.

Regarding the events of that night, who decided that first Bill Drout, then Mona Lisa Chambers, then Terry Lowry would speak for the Vacancy Committee? I'll grant that Chairman Dillon can designate whoever he likes to represent the Committee in his absence. But aren't Committee reports generally time limited? And didn't Jared specifically ask for limits on discussion for resolutions? And wasn't Terry's monologue essentially a long speech against passage of the resolution for Vacancy Committee transparency?

Who exactly held the gavel while Terry exceeded the time limit for the entire committee report all by himself? Are we to believe that the man who held the gavel had no inkling of what Terry was going to speak about? How long would he have let Terry go on had there not been objections from the floor?

These things are all symptomatic of the issues you pointed out in this blog post.

|| Posted by Jeff Larson, February 16, 2014 04:09 PM ||

As vice chair of the committee, Drout was just fine. But having said there was no report, the time should have been yielded. Instead they abused the committee report time (and then some) to lobby for one resolution and against another. Lowry showed the angry arrogance that I described above. And as for Mona Lisa -- well, dare I say that if I did not know and respect that dear lady I would have begun to wonder if that disjointed ramble was a sign of intoxication or senility.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, February 16, 2014 08:33 PM ||

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