An Austin-based nonprofit with ties to activists arrested in the past for targeting legislators in other states has collected hundreds of hours of secretly recorded video footage of Texas lawmakers to use against them in the upcoming election cycle, a representative from the group confirmed Tuesday.
The undercover video campaign represents a new front by conservative groups to target moderate Republicans and tilt the Texas Legislature further to the right.
Several House Republican lawmakers already have expressed concerns with some of the group’s tactics, saying they aggressively were approached last week – inside and outside the Capitol – by men who used hidden cameras to secretly videotape a series of encounters that has raised alarms for Capitol security.
John Beria, spokesman for Austin-based nonprofit the American Phoenix Foundation, said the group has 16 staffers working on the project and has amassed more than 800 hours of covert footage of lawmakers, including “guys confessing to pretty serious criminal acts.”
The group intends to begin releasing the information in the next several weeks and months, a key time frame as the legislative session comes to an end and lawmakers begin to plot for the primary season.
“We’re going for the people who are notorious in some of their actions. And so the people who are doing the shady business deals and the people who are doing the nefarious things around town, those are the people we spend our time on,” Beria said.
Last week’s encounters at the Capitol were described by lawmakers as attempts to provoke responses on hot-button policy issues, along with questions about Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, a consistent target of criticism in tea party circles.