Ethics commission fines Republican $30K for implying Black Democrats endorsed him
Eric Dick said he wasn't behind the Houston mailer, but a probe found that he requested, approved and arranged to pay for it.
A Houston Republican who lost his bid for a seat on its city council has been fined $30,000 by the Texas Ethics Commission after falsely claiming he had been endorsed by a group of Black Democrats.
According to The Houston Chronicle, Eric Dick was running for office in 2019 when he sent out an endorsement mailer by a group called the Harris County Black Democratic News that used photos of former President Barack Obama, U.S. House representatives Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green, other state legislators and local officials, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
The other side of the mailer featured photos of nine City Council candidates, including Willie Davis, a Houston pastor, and Dick under banner text that reads, “Endorsement Announcement.”
Dick originally told The Texas Ethics Commission that he was not behind the mailer. However, an investigation discovered that he requested the mailer, approved the design and arranged for its payment.
The commission voted for the fine, adding that the mailer did not include the required disclosure revealing who paid for it.
The commission separately voted for a $6,000 fine for Phillip Paul Bryant, founder of the Harris County Black Democratic News, for failing to clearly disclose the source of the mailer.
“The evidence shows that the true source of the mailers at issue in these complaints is Eric Dick,” Natalie McDermon, the assistant general counsel for the TEC, told The Chronicle. “He paid for these mailers, he contacted the printing company about these mailers, he even determined when and where these mailers would be distributed to thousands of Houston residents.”
In 2019, state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, who was among those pictured on the Dick mailer, told The Chronicle “I have never been contacted by the Harris County Black Democratic News, nor am I sure that they are a legitimate news or community organization.” She added, “I did not consent to being included in the Harris County Black Democratic News and am appalled that a group would go to this extent to mislead voters.”
Bryant, the Harris County Black Democratic News owner, is reportedly an activist who, according to previous Houston Chronicle coverage, once unsuccessfully sued the city over a 2012 law that requires advocates of homeless persons to obtain permission from public or private property owners before giving away food to more than five people in one setting. He claimed the law infringed on his faith. While his case was thrown out, another suit progressed with another plaintiff.
Dick has continued to deny any wrongdoing. His attorney, Chris Carmona, called the hearing from the commission a “political farce run by a bunch of cronies and fat cats” and said Dick has “every intention to appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
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