Based out of Austin, Texas, the Texas Alliance for Life PAC and Texas Alliance for Life (TAL), a 501(c)(4) organization, advocate for restrictions on abortion. During the legislative session TAL works in the Capitol either supporting or opposing particular bills relating to abortion, meanwhile during election season their PAC actively works to help or defeat certain candidates. In recent years, TAL has aligned with the current Texas House leadership circle under Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, and politically with organizations such as the Texas Medical Association.
1. Clear Disagreement in the Texas Pro-Life Movement
Most people believe the term “pro-life” is fairly straightforward. They assume those who support protecting life from the moment of conception until natural death are all “on the same team.” In Texas, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Increasingly, TAL is often found on the opposite side of Republican primary races from other pro-life groups, chiefly Texas Right to Life. As an example, Texas Alliance for Life supported Gainesville State Representative J.D. Sheffield over challenger auctioneer Brent Graves. During the previous session of the Texas Legislature, State Rep. Sheffield infamously delivered a speech on the Texas House floor supporting abortion for babies with a disability; Texas Right to Life supported Mr. Graves.
2. Financial Support from Lawmakers
The top nine donors to TAL during the 2015-2016 election cycle were eight candidates, and one general-purpose PAC exclusively used to support candidates friendly to current Speaker of the Texas House, Joe Straus. Often, a candidate will donate funds to an advocacy PAC in order to allow the “independent” PAC to send mail or media touting the candidate’s qualifications. This type of third-party verification often resonates with voters more than a candidate touting his/her own accomplishments.
3. Insider Alliance
The largest recipient of funds from Texas Alliance for Life was none other than the campaign consultant for Speaker Straus, Murphy Nasica. With more politically moderate clients like Speaker Straus, State Representative Charlie Geren, and former State Representative Jim Keffer, Murphy Nasica has a reputation for promoting those who are dedicated to stopping conservatives.
Critics of TAL have claimed the group’s relationship with those in power is far too close to objectively view the inter-workings of the Capitol. Whether citizens agree with that sentiment or not, sharing a campaign consultant with the same people the group is supposed to hold accountable raises justifiable concerns.
Most interesting donation:
Texas Alliance for Life made a $200 donation to Democrat State Representative Abel Herrero. A look at the legislative scorecard of the largest pro-life organization in the state, Texas Right to Life, shows State Rep. Herrero to have a 50% pro-life voting record during the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature. On votes cast, State Rep. Herrero appears to be against taxpayer funding of abortion or abortion-related services, voting against two relevant amendments to the state’s budget that particular year. Interestingly, State Rep. Herrero is also known for supporting patients’ rights to receive life-sustaining treatment over decisions made by a hospital ethics committee via the Texas Advance Directives Law. On the contrary, Texas Alliance for Life has historically been in favor of maintaining the status quo – allowing medical personnel to decide whether a patient receives requested life-sustaining treatment.
Our Capitol Crowd series outlines and highlights the politicians, advocacy groups, and donors that have the biggest impact during the 140-day legislative session. Check back throughout session for updates