Casting Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott as a union buster isn't tough to envision. At least that's the narrative the Texas State Troopers Association is pushing in a recent lawsuit filed in federal court. It argues Abbott and the Department of Public Safety are bent on "breaking apart a public sector labor union" by forcing it to jettison its leadership or pay a $1 million fine under a proposed settlement agreement the attorney proffered in lieu of a civil or criminal lawsuit.
This may be, TSTA speculates, because it often finds that the interests it agitates for (troopers on the road) are at cross-purposes with those of their employer, the DPS. Abbott's office says its finances, not its legislative aims, are the problem.
If you have a land-line, odds are you've gotten a call from TSTA soliciting donations. That's how the organization raises money. Trouble is, Abbott's spokesman says, the money isn't going to the rank and file. Instead, it's lobbyists and telemarketers. According to its IRS filings, the organization raised $3.25 million in 2012, a spokesman for Abbott's office writes in an email to Unfair Park. Much of it, some $2.5 million, went to "fundraising fees." Another $75,000 paid for lobbyists. For "membership" benefits, it devoted $35,000.
"The TSTA's lawsuit is nothing more than a frivolous attempt to prevent the Attorney General's Office from enforcing the law so that the TSTA's long-time leadership team can avoid being held responsible for its conduct."
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TSTA, in its filing, says its expenditures don't amount to malfeasance. "High fundraising fees alone are not enough to constitute fraud, nor do they provide any reasonable justification for denying TSTA equal protection and due process as required by the First and 14th Amendments."
A call placed to the organizations headquarters was not answered. Unfair Park sent an email to its president, Lee Johnson, and will update this post as soon as we hear from him.
This isn't the first DPS union Abbott has gone after. In 2011, he sued the Texas Highway Patrol Association, accusing it of defrauding consumers by soliciting donations for the families of fallen troopers and spending instead "for their personal use, including meals, in-house pet care, entertainment and unauthorized travel by board members, their friends and families."
Under a settlement agreement, THPA's assets were liquidated and given to the families of fallen state troopers who never received a $10,000 death benefit they were promised. It should be noted, the state pays a lump sum of $250,000 to the family of any officer killed in the line of duty. They're eligible to receive up to $300,000 from the federal government.