Friday, May 22, 2015

American Phoenix Foundation Stalks Texas Legislators in Austin

Sarah Davis, State Rep District 134 and Debbie Riddle, State Rep District 150 are being stalked at the State Capitol in Austin.  It is uncomfortable for them as the video Rep Davis' put on her Facebook page shows. Rep Riddle shared the video on her Facebook page and learned of those behind the project from a commenter.  This is some eye-opening creepy gotcha stuff.  As women, it is no wonder they are uncomfortable as a guy dressed in all black follows - too closely, I might add - a woman legislator around the Capitol.  Any woman would feel a violation of personal space and on edge with concern for her personal safety.

From Sarah Davis' Facebook page:

What you are witnessing in this video is what I have experienced four to six times a day for the last three weeks. If you want to know what it is like to be in politics today, watch this.
Posted by Sarah Davis for State Representative 134 on Thursday, May 21, 2015

From Debbie Riddle's Facebook page:

"What Representative Sarah Davis has been experiencing with this creepy guy is what many of us have been dealing with at the Capitol. As I leave the House Chamber or go into a committee meeting, or even head down the hall to the underground parking, even getting on an elevator these creepy guys are stalking with their hidden cameras. It will be interesting to see who is financing their creepiness."

Riddle notes that it is not just female politicians, but males, too, being closely followed by silent stalkers.

What you notice in the video is the guy dressed in black looks at the camera and smirks after Rep Davis confronts him. Clearly he is enjoying her irritation.

So, I wondered, who is financing this stalking?  It turns out to be a "conservative" group, working to sabotage Republicans on video. The group is called American Phoenix Foundation. The Texas Tribune has a piece on this:

The activist group employing people who have been secretly recording lawmakers has talked about having a bipartisan mission to root out misdeeds of lawmakers no matter the political stripe.But four large donors to the American Phoenix Foundation — the Strake Foundation, the State Policy Network, the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, and Jeff Sandefer's Ed Foundation — are well-known backers of conservative causes. The donations show what many had suspected  — that money was coming in from institutional organizations active in other conservative causes.

Then a spokesperson made the following statement:

The four groups "did not donate to this project or to this year's budget at all," a man who identified himself as John Beria, a spokesman for American Phoenix, said in an email Thursday. He added that American Phoenix remains committed to targeting misdeeds by lawmakers from any party. 
Going further:

American Phoenix is headed by Joseph Basel, who in 2010 was among four people who were arrested and charged with entering federal property under false pretenses in Louisiana. The group, pretending to be telephone repairmen, entered then-U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in New Orleans. Basel later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine, serve two years' probation and perform 75 hours of community service. One of his co-defendants in that case, Stan Dai, is also an officer with American Phoenix.
 George Strake, who served as former Texas secretary of state under Gov. Bill Clements, told the Tribune that his foundation contributed to American Phoenix because he's a fan of the group's vice president, Hannah Giles. Strake added that his donations were made years ago and didn't have anything to do with the group's recent videotaping project. But he didn't rule out donating to them in the future.
Giles, who is now married to Basel, drew national headlines in 2009 when she and fellow conservative activist James O'Keefe entered the offices of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN — an activist group known for its voter registration drives — to ask for a housing loan to fund a brothel.  
The article includes a chart of the major donors to this group.  Included is Empower Texans and Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Full disclosure: As stated in the article, "Franklin Center funds, a journalism network operating in nearly 20 states, including Texas."  I have been a contributor to - Texas in the past.  Also, I have a history with Texas Public Policy Foundation, including attending and blogging during the Annual Policy Orientations and other special events to which I have been invited.

While transparency is important, common decency is expected from anyone approaching an elected official.  Video taping every move and word uttered from an elected official in order to play gotcha may be acceptable to some but hardly worthy of professionals.  Conservatives turning on other conservatives has become commonplace and that is unfortunate. All of this latest bad behavior on display seems to be a tactic utilized by those who oppose the leadership of Speaker Joe Straus.  

Use the link above - copy and paste if needed and watch the brief video of Rep Sarah Davis and one of the stalkers.  

What a sad chapter in politics.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are using trigger words: "as a woman" and "stalking." this is in a public place. There are many people around. It's OK to discuss the bogosity of the filming, but not make this into violence against women. They have over 800 hours of tape on a bunch of MALE legislators, too.