State Reps. Jeff Cason (R-Bedford), Ben Leman (R-Anderson), and Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) were named in the report as having violated caucus bylaws, which if approved by the body would suspend their membership in the caucus through the end of the 87th Legislature.
The 88th Legislative Session begins in January, so a suspension would last only months.
Also named in the report is state Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg), but the committee found “insufficient evidence” of a bylaws violation.
Toth is the only one of the four members seeking re-election this year.
The executive committee is made up of Chairman Jim Murphy (R-Houston), Vice-Chair Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress), Treasurer Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth), and Secretary Candy Noble (R-Lucas).
In a statement to The Texan, Murphy said, “Our members are making a decision about an internal matter that is nether legislative nor legal in nature. We appreciate your inquiry and have no further information to share at this time.”
The caucus bylaws prohibit members from providing financial and campaign support to primary challengers of their GOP colleagues.
“Any alleged violation of Sections 7.09 or 7.10 may be reported by any member to the Caucus Chair for referral to the Executive Committee for investigation or action, including curative action or recommendation of fine, suspension, or revocation of membership of any member,” reads a following section of the bylaws. To trigger punishment for those violations, two-thirds of the caucus must vote in favor of the motion.
The potential violations stem from two reports from other members.
The first, according to the document, came from state Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) who named Leman and Toth and their support of Ben Bius in his primary challenge to Rep. Kyle Kacal (R-College Station).
Rep. Glenn Rogers (R-Graford) filed the other report against Biedermann and Toth, alleging their support for his primary challenger Mike Olcott.
Both Kacal and Rogers won their respective races.
Leman openly endorsed Bius, releasing a statement detailing that on January 3. The report also says that Leman confirmed contributing financially to Bius as well, with records showing two $1,000 donations from the representative to Bius.
But Leman contended that because he and Kacal were drawn into the same district and would have been running against each other had he decided to seek re-election, the actions do not violate the intent of the rule — to prevent members from interceding in other members’ districts.
Reached by phone, Leman told The Texan, “I can’t imagine the other members really think this violates the spirit of the rule.”
Toth also endorsed Bius against Kacal but said in the report that’s as far as it went, and contended that Bius is a longtime friend.
Cason was accused of financially supporting Olcott in the form of two $1,000 contributions. “In a phone interview with Chairman Murphy, Representative Cason confirmed that he gave to Mike Olcott and had also made donations against Representatives Lynn Stucky, Stephanie Klick, and Reggie Smith,” reads the report.
“[Cason] said he was not aware of the bylaws provision but would have made the contributions anyway.”
Cason is not seeking re-election after his district was redrawn to heavily favor Democrats, something he accused some of his GOP colleagues of doing deliberately.
Biedermann, the only one not recommended to face action, was accused by Rogers of supporting Olcott through a quote of his placed on a third-party mail piece. The mailer, paid for by Texas Gun Rights, accused Rogers of taking bad votes on gun legislation.
Biedermann said he was not aware of the mail piece and said, “It could’ve been picked up from a Townhall meeting, a conversation with a third-party, or any number of ways,” per the report.
The report concludes, “Members of the Texas House Republican Caucus shall electronically vote on the recommended action proposed by the Executive Committee to reprimand the representatives who have been found to have violated the Caucus bylaws.”
Update: Rep. Cason provided the following statement on the 18th: “The Republican caucus leadership has decided you can cheat on your spouse, break quorum, refuse to hear GOP legislation, and create lists of Republican members to target for defeating in their re-election, but as long as you are doing this in conjunction with leadership or you’re a Democrat, there will be no consequences. This whole issue is about the Incumbent Protection Program. If you dare exercise your first amendment right to oppose Republican members who oppose conservative policies they will ‘censure’ you. We have a duty to our constituents that supersedes any caucus and that includes keeping them informed of our recommendations. We don’t take an oath on the house floor to defend the caucus. Our oath is to uphold and defend the Constitution. That includes the right of free speech.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include comment from Chairman Murphy.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.