by David Smith
April 13, 2020
After well over a year of legal work, the Texas Ethics Commission held then Plano Council Member Tom Harrison accountable for his apparent 2018 campaign ethics violations, and this past Friday, publicly released their findings and action.
The Commission found that Harrison violated the law in accepting and not reporting anonymous donations through a GoFundMe page, then ordered him to disclose the donations and levied a fine.
Harrison and others have benefited from dark money injected into our local politics. The Commission sent a clear message to his supporters (aka the Plano Angry Crowd), that this will not be tolerated.
For those unfamiliar with the history, Harrison was the subject of a recall campaign after his islamophobic and racist Facebook posts came to light. Over 4,400 citizens succeeded in submitting a petition resulting in the City Council calling a November 2018 recall election. Harrison was, in turn, unfortunately successful in a legal action that canceled that election.
Where did the money come from to pay his attorneys? He disclosed only $1,150 in contributions that year. One counter indicator was a GoFundMe page that raised $12,353, almost all of which came from “Anonymous” per that site.
The GoFundMe page included a pitch that “[Harrison] is the victim of malicious distortions, character assassination and outright lies. Democrats, special interest and fanatics have conspired to break the law … to force him off the City Council to make way for [the Mayor’s] political and social agenda.”
Harrison claimed that this was not a political solicitation. On reviewing it, the Texas Ethics Commission, in so many words, said, “Um, this is political.”
By the way, the nonpartisan citizen group spearheading the recall included a broad cross-section of our community, including Democrats, Republicans and Independents. And the group succeeded, despite the cancellation of the recall election. Harrison did not file for re-election and left the Council a few months later.
This was a long battle, undoubtedly hard fought by the dark money proponents. It is gratifying to see the conclusions of the Commission as well as their decision to publicly release it.
See the attachment: