texans-for-lawsuit-reform-checkpoint-charlie-4TLR, ally or AWOL

December 16, 2011 | Articles

This week Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) endorsed liberal Republican Vicki Truitt for re-election over a conservative challenger. Truitt has consistently been assailed by conservatives since a 2009 effort to raise taxes. While TLR’s actions these days are not universally anti-conservative its endorsements, including that of Truitt, are a sign of changing motivations at TLR that conservatives need to recognize.

Nationwide, it is basically true to say: The Democratic Party = the trial lawyers + unions.

Approximately 15 years ago, trial lawyers were sucking the life out of the Texas economy (as they were everywhere else). An abusive tort environment was a powerful dragon to be slain. TLR stepped in and bravely slayed the dragon, but now that it’s dead in Texas, TLR is a powerful political actor without an obvious cause.

The result: TLR has gone from outsider to champion of the status quo.

The simple explanation could be that tort reform was the only thing TLR ever cared about. As a result, if two candidates in a race are both in favor of protecting tort reform, they’d rather the entrenched option. The known quantity. The controllable.

It makes sense, but it also illustrates the trouble with one-issue groups. There are many progressive wrongs in need of legislative correction. To halt overall conservative reform progress because one issue is taken care of is only okay if you are the one-issue group whose issue is taken care of. If you back politicians who are good on your issue, but bad on most of the others, conservatives lose.

It could also be that TLR is allied with entrenched power on some other issue, such as gambling expansion. Time will tell.

The evidence that TLR is making decisions that thwart broader conservative policy is mounting. This week’s endorsement of Vicki Truitt is the latest. Texas Budget Watch wrote on Thursday about Truitt's effort to outdo her 2009 tax increase agenda by ushering a bill into law that hides public pension fund spending.

Before Truitt, the conflicted TLR failed to back stalwart conservative Geannie Morrison against entrenched moderate Todd Hunter. The group was in a bind according to Paul Burka over the pairing. Morrison dropping out, and TLR’s quick endorsement of Hunter are not unrelated. Hunter has received large contributions from trial lawyers, is a key advisor to Joe Straus, and was a central character in the sordid TWIA scandal that led to TWIA reform last session.

On the whole, TLR’s actions can be viewed as a show of support for Speaker Joe Straus. In spite of the connections Straus’ leaders have with liberals and his stalling of conservative measures, like spending limits in 2009 and 2011, TLR’s issue is safe.

Well, that’s not ever going to be good enough for full-orbed life-and-liberty conservatives. It is always sad to watch an ally switch sides. But, it happens. It helps nobody to pretend it hasn’t.

Daniel Greer

Daniel Greer is Executive Director of AgendaWise. Previously, Daniel worked for Empower Texans, a non-profit direct advocacy group focused on fiscal policy in Texas. He holds a B.A. in Government from the University of Texas at Austin. A native Texan, Daniel is a member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church and lives in Bastrop County with his wife Karen, their children Griffin and Julian, Willa Lou. You can reach him at [email protected]