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Watchdog’s Scariest People of 2015: No. 1

By   /   January 1, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 25 of 25 in the series Watchdog's Scariest People of 2015
AP file photo

IN CONTROL: Republican Joe Straus controls the Texas House of Representatives with the support of Democrats.

All week we’ve highlighted the most egregious examples of nanny statism, overweening bureaucracy and just plain old bad government from the past 12 months, encompassing local, state and federal officialdom.

The Scariest People of 2015 is a frightening list indeed, filled with bureaucrats and functionaries who, shall we say, do not share an affinity for liberty.

But the No. 1 name on the list holds a special place in the annals of bad governance and betrayal of conservative principles.

Is anyone scarier for small-government, free-market conservatives than a Republican leader with a left-wing power base?

In the Texas Legislature, where the GOP enjoys a nominal super-majority, House Speaker Joe Straus runs a powerful political machine that blocks school choice, protects labor unions and generally grates on conservatives.

While Straus curries favor with minority Democratic lawmakers to keep himself in power, the Alamo Heights Republican relegates conservatives to marginal committees and their legislation goes nowhere.

Straus says he “works with all sides.” Indeed, he anointed far-left Democrat Garnet Coleman to chair the House County Affairs Committee, where Coleman recently grilled sheriffs about their alleged “racial profiling,” using talking points ripped from the #BlackLivesMatter campaign.

Considered the most liberal member of the House, Coleman is a member of the Straus leadership team.

Straus rewards compliant Republicans with key sinecures to block free-market legislation.

“While 99 percent of political contributions from unions are given to Democrats, the largest Republican recipients in Texas are Straus and his chief lieutenant Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth,” explains Empower Texans, a conservative activist group. “That explains why the Paycheck Protection bill (SB 1968) passed by the Senate was ultimately killed by Straus’ favorite reform-killer, State Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana.”

Similarly, school-choice measures the Senate passed are routinely derailed in Straus’ House. Backed by San Antonio grocery mogul Charles Butt, Straus acolytes were in the bag for their leader.

Even the state’s supposedly independent Ethics Commission fronts for Straus, as it dogs conservative activists and perceived political enemies with threats of fines or indictments.

Wallace Hall, a University of Texas regent and open-government advocate, said Straus questioned his business ethics – “and he never even met me. He never called me once.”

Hall, an appointee of then-Gov. Rick Perry, said a state investigation into his background “was all directed by Joe Straus.”

“Boards cannot be effective if politicians continue to intimidate them,” Hall said.

Part of 25 in the series Watchdog's Scariest People of 2015

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Kenric Ward is a veteran journalist who has worked on three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers. A California native, he received a BA from UCLA (Political Science/Phi Beta Kappa) and holds an MBA. He reported and edited at the San Jose Mercury News and the Las Vegas Sun before joining Watchdog.org in 2012 as Virginia Bureau Chief.