Every Texan Foundation is a voter-registration program launched by Henry Cisneros that seeks to enroll new voters. Targeting lower income and historically disenfranchised communities, ETF wants to broaden the scope of representation in Texas. That goal goes against the interests of some powerful people, including Susan Weddington, Chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party, who made public the GOP's campaign of intimidation against the ETF by announcing their plans to sic the IRS on them. Her sanctimonious warning claimed that the ETF "should not longer be allowed to circumvent the campaign disclosure laws."
The attack by the Texas GOP and the Public Policy Foundation — its primary propaganda "non-profit" puppet — is only one example of the nationwide campaign of intolerance and intimidation orchestrated by the ultra-right forces in the recent past and intensified after September 11.
Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has lacked the consistent courage and, in the case of many of its leaders, the ideological distinctiveness, to mount a principled opposition to the far right's assault on American society. That weakness in the Democratic Party resulted in conservative extremists gaining control over the state in November 1998, when the GOP won several key elections: Rick Perry became the first Republican Lieutenant Governor, John Cornyn the first Republican Attorney General, Carole Keeton Rylander the first Republican Comptroller. The GOP also retained majority control of the State Senate and gained four seats in the Texas House and George W. Bush became governor. Since 1998, the Texas right-wing, with the Public Policy Foundation's help, has usurped control over the Texas State Board of Education and now holds a majority in 60 of Texas' largest county governments.
Their plan for total control of the State is threatened by the efforts of the Cisneros-led ETF to register working class and poor Texans. Additionally, Cisneros himself supports Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez and Senate candidate Ron Kirk, which has made the former San Antonio mayor a target for GOP and TPPF criticism.
Laden with Enron connections and funded in part with its money (and that of San Antonio's own notorious right-wing extremist James Leininger) Texas Public Policy Foundation boasts powerful friends, including honorary chairman Wendy Gramm, wife of right-wing zealot Senator Phil Gramm. TPPF ideologues rant against fair funding of public schools, a woman's right to control her body, patients' access to the courts to seek justice against abusive or incompetent hospitals and doctors, protections against NAFTA's disastrous impact on U.S. working families, and more. TPPF's puppet master, the GOP, knows that if the ETF succeeds in meeting its goal of registering 500,000 new voters among the groups disfranchised by their right wing policies, they may lose control over the state — and the Bush clan may not be able to pull another Florida scam in 2004 — so they are pulling the strings of their marionette non-prof to denounce it.
The TPPF and the GOP camouflage their central motives when they attack the Every Texan Foundation. Although the TPPF has held fund raising events where GOP politicians, including Senator Gramm and Governor Perry, were speakers and special guests, Perry's spokesperson, Ray Sullivan, complained that former President Bill Clinton was invited to an ETF fund-raiser in Houston on April 26. The fact that Sullivan attacked Clinton's visit by calling him "one of the most divisive presidents in recent history," while ETF spokespersons have refrained their responses is indicative of the arrogance of the GOP and TPPF tactics.
When Clinton spoke at the ETF fund-raiser in Houston, he talked about the importance of registering poor people to vote and encouraging them to be a part of the broader society. He also addressed the need to protect social programs vital for the elderly, sick, and poor, and the urgency for the U.S. to be a player for a peaceful world. He stated, "The U.S. has to be and do good inside its borders if it wants to be and do good outside."
When Senator Gramm or other operatives for President Bush speak, they spew a belligerent "us versus them" solution to every problem. Sometimes they pit poor families against their neighbors, sometimes Southerners against "liberal Northerners" and lately it is also Americans against the whole world. Yet mouthpiece Sullivan dares call Clinton "divisive."
The goal of these typical attacks by the Texas GOP and the TPPF is that by casting doubts on the ETF legitimacy, Latinos, African Americans, and poor Anglos will be afraid to join the ETF's voter registration campaign.
It will be interesting to see if the ETF leaders cave in to these attacks — or if they realize the broader dangerous implications of these intimidating tactics, and muster the courage to resist.