Republican infighting or ethics problem? Conservative activist failed to register as lobbyist as required, according to ethics complaint

Texas state Capitol

For the second time in less than a week Republicans of standing in the Texas House have gone after groups that frequently criticize Republicans they say aren’t conservative enough.

Reps. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, and Vicki Truitt, R-Keller, dropped 173 pages of documents comprising a complaint against Michael Quinn Sullivan with the Texas Ethics Commission, according to a Houston Chronicle blog post today.

The complaint alleges that Sullivan and the two conservative non-profits he heads, Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, have since the last quarter of 2010 lobbied elected officials without registering with the Commission.

You can wade deep into the complaint and the supporting documents here and here.

Keffer and Truitt issued separate statements saying they filed their complaints to shine a light on what they called powerful special interest groups trying to influence elections while avoiding public scrutiny.

Keffer and Truitt know a little bit about power in Austin. Keffer has served seven terms, chairs the high-profile Energy and Resources Committee and sits on the influential Calendars Committee.

Truitt is completing her sixth term, is chairman of the Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee, and serves with Keffer on Calendars.

Sullivan, who returned in the late morning to Austin, told Texas Watchdog he needed time to go through the complaint before addressing the specific allegations made against him. He issued this statement via his website.

He did, however, tell the Chronicle the complaints were politically motivated.

“Looks like election season is upon us, with incumbents hoping desperately that voters will pay attention to anything except their record,” Sullivan said. “First I learned of this was from press calls. I just wish they invested as much of their time in pursuing good government as they now have in trying to suppress political speech.”

Late last week, the Election Group, a subsidiary of the Fort Worth political consultant Eppstein Group, took a whack at political speech suppression on behalf of State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook.

A representative of the group demanded AgendaWise, a conservative Austin website, be shut down for posting information and audio the group said damaged Cook’s reputation.

The folks at AgendaWise told Texas Watchdog they have no intention of ceasing or desisting.

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 1:50 p.m. on April 5 with a link to Sullivan's statement.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of Texas state Capitol dome by flickr user The Brit_2, used via a Creative Commons license.