By Alex Wukman
Unless you are a regular reader of right wing sites Pajamas Media and Big Government you wouldn’t have known that t Houston based ‘election integrity’ group True the Vote held its first annual summit Saturday, March 25, and Sunday, March 26. For anyone not familiar with True the Vote; they, and their parent organization King Street Patriots, gained attention after allegations of voter intimidation and misinformation surfaced last fall. The allegations led to a voter intimidation lawsuit being filed against the group by the Texas Democratic Party and further allegations that former Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Leo Vasquez gave a partisan group access to confidential voter information.
Founded in 2009 by Houston industrialist and Big Journalism contributor Catherine Engelbrecht and Houston chocolate sauce magnate Lynn Lasher, King Street Patriots has fast become one of the rising stars of conservative politics. The group’s notoriety is based on the belief that Engelbrecht and a ‘group of citizen volunteers’ found “thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of incomplete, inaccurate or false voter registrations,” a narrative they sold to the right wing through a slick PR campaign and Engelbrecht’s telegenic smile. All of which has gone on to make King Street Patriots, and Engelbrecht, emerging power players in conservative circles. Not bad for a woman who states that her previous experiences, besides being a city volunteer and business owner, were limited to being “a wife, a mother, a founder and board member of her church, an officer of her children’s school’s PTO,” or as she calls it being a “life activist.”
At the close of this year’s True the Vote summit Engelbrecht told the assembled delegates, who came from either 23 or 27 states, that her group wants to mobilize three “trained poll watchers” for each of the nation’s precincts for the 2012 election. The manpower King Street Patriots would need to accomplish the task Engelbrecht is taking on has been estimated at around 1 million volunteers. It’s a little more than slightly ironic that no matter how loudly True the Vote claims to be non-partisan advocates for transparency, their slogan is “Free and Fair elections,” they are vehemently opposed to transparency when it comes to their own events.
Lefty political site Talking Points Memo posted Saturday morning that one of their reporters was prevented from registering to attend the conference and then was barred access to the Intercontinental Hotel; which led Pajamas Media to ask what would happen “if Pajamas attempted to cover the discussions of left wing operations like “Election Protection” when they trained poll workers for their semi-annual nationwide operations?” Apparently in Pajamas land its okay for an organization to refuse to give a reporter access to an event because you disagree with what he or she writes about your group.
Fortunately Houston Chronicle political blogger Kathleen McKinley didn’t seem to have that problem. McKinley, who writes Texas Sparkle, the worst titled political blog on the whole internet, practically gushed all over the event describing the King Street Patriots as “good people just trying to do the right thing” and compared the voter fraud and voter intimidation accusations that had been levied against Engelbrecht and her organization to, “leaving your doors unlocked at home all day while you are at work and never checking to see if anything is missing.”
It really doesn’t help McKinley’s credibility that she ends the only article published by a major Houston news organization about a national Tea Party event with a recruitment call for inner loop Tea Partiers, “The GOP has given up on the black vote, and that is a tragedy in my opinion. People like Earl and myself are trying to change that. So, if you live in Shelia Jackson Lee’s district, and would like to be involved, let me know and I will send you in the right direction.”
Conservative opinionator Andrew Breitbart was the closest the event came to having a keynote speaker. Depending on who you read Breitbart’s speech was either “high political comedy…a call to arms and other times just plain funny” or a polemic “on the broader cultural war that he sees happening in America.” Unfortunately the Chron’s political blogger didn’t offer her opinion on what Breitbart had to say.