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Spokesman: Trial lawyer Mostyn helped police group because he wanted to try to unseat hometown state rep

September 23, 2014
Dallas Morning News
Robert T. Garrett

Houston trial lawyer and political mega donor Steve Mostyn, who usually helps Democratic candidates, bankrolled a police group that was mostly playing in GOP primaries last spring because he’s from Tyler and wanted to knock off tea party-backed freshman Republican Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, a spokesman said Monday.

“We were playing close attention to the race in East Texas because Steve’s from Tyler,” said Mostyn spokesman Jeff Rotkoff.

Rotkoff said Mostyn and his wife, Amber, who each election cycle give millions to state political causes, dropped a cool $50,000 on the Texas Municipal Police Association PAC this year because they were impressed with the group’s goals in the primary election.

“They opposed candidates who we thought were not doing a good job,” Rotkoff said.

Among the PAC’s targets were attorney general candidate Ken Paxton of McKinney, whom the law enforcement group’s president chided in this open letter for failing to register as an investment adviser. The omission drew Paxton, a freshman state senator, a fine from the Texas State Securities Board. Three months earlier, the police PAC endorsed Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, Paxton’s chief rival for attorney general. In a May 27 runoff, Paxton crushed Branch.

The association says it has more than 20,000 members who are law enforcement officers and first responders. Late last year, its PAC moved early to back Republican Speaker Joe Straus for re-election to his House seat in San Antonio. In this year’s GOP House primaries, the PAC generally supported Straus allies. For instance, it helped Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, who won; and Rep. Bennett Ratliff, R-Coppell, who narrowly lost.

By far the PAC’s biggest push was defeating Schaefer, who is allied with Straus’ critics. A year ago, Paxton and 20 of the House’s most conservative members traveled to Tyler to attend a fundraiser for Schaefer, according to this post by Texas Monthly‘s Paul Burka.

Of the $72,000 the municipal police association PAC has raised this year, 69 percent came from the Mostyn Law Firm, according to a Dallas Morning News review of campaign-finance reports to the Texas Ethics Commission. Of the $81,500 the PAC has spent on candidates in 2014, just over $52,000 — or 64 percent — went to buy radio ads, mailers and brochures for Schaefer’s GOP challenger, Tyler businessman Skip Ogle, the newspaper found.

The effort failed as Schaefer, one of the House’s most conservative members, fended off Ogle in the initial March 4 balloting, 61 percent to 39 percent.

Late Monday, PAC treasurer Lon Craft, who is the police association’s director of legislative services, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Mostyn donations.

Mostyn grew up in Whitehouse, just outside Tyler, and has relatives who live in Tyler, Rotkoff said.