The state’s most visible anti-abortion group this week abruptly took down a campaign video featuring the candidate it endorsed for State Senate District 2.
A Twitter video recorded by Republican State Sen. Bob Hall in December, for Houston-based anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life was abruptly taken down this week after the Texas Tribune questioned whether the ad was paid for by dark money – undisclosed funds spent on a candidate campaign.
In the video, Hall expressly asks for votes in his race against State Rep. Cindy Burkett in Texas Senate District 2 closes with this message: "Paid for by Texas Right to Life Committee, the state’s largest and oldest pro-life organization." The tagline was read by Hall.
Jay Root covered the story with Patrick Svitek for the Tribune. They downloaded the video before it was deleted. Root says that acknowledgement by Hall at the end of the video could be construed as a misuse of the organization’s funds.
"In order to abide by the law of what you can use undisclosed corporate money for," he says, "it has to be without the knowledge of the candidate, without coordination of the candidate, and he was in the actual ad. The Twitter video had scrolling in print, under the little scrolling ticker on the video, and it said 'Paid for by Texas Right to Life Committee, Incorporated.' And that’s the c4 entity."
That means it's the organization's nonprofit corporation, not its Political Action Committee, the latter of which could legally fund a campaign ad with the candidate directly involved.
Root says the organization amended its December finance report only after the Tribune looked into the matter. Texas Right to Life told the Tribune it had “inadvertently” attributed $38,000 in audio ads to the organization’s corporate entity instead of its PAC.
A key Hall strategist told the Tribune that Hall had no knowledge of how the ad was paid for when the senator recorded it.
Calls and emails to the Hall camp and to Texas Right to Life were not returned.
JayRoot can be found on Twitter @byjayroot.