Austin lawmaker asks DA to investigate claims of fradulent letter-writing campaign

A State Representative from Austin is asking the Travis County District Attorney to investigate a letter writing campaign she believes is fraudulent.

Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, said thousands of letters sent to republican lawmakers in support of school vouchers appear to have used names of people who do not support that legislation.

“To send a fraudulent letter is at minimum wrong and, I think, potentially illegal,” said Hinojosa. 

Hinojosa said several of her colleagues received letters from people who supposedly support private school vouchers. They were all postmarked in Austin from a letter writing campaign called Texans for Education Opportunity.

“From a policy perspective, it's very frustrating to me because we work so hard here in Austin, here in the Capitol, to fight for our public schools. So, when this group is using these fraudulent methods to influence policy here to undermine our public schools, that just makes me mad,” Hinojosa said. 

The allegations began after another lawmaker received a pro-school voucher letter signed by former Representative Rick Hardcastle. Hardcastle, who said he does not remember signing the letter and does not support private school vouchers, asked his local DA to investigate the campaign.
Ross Fischer with the Gober Group, a law firm that represents Texans for Education Opportunity, sent FOX 7 an email saying, "With respect to Mr. Hardcastle's letter, it has been confirmed that, at 4:04 p.m. on February 7, 2017, a person using IP address ------ submitted Mr. Hardcastle's email address and home address requesting that a letter be generated on his behalf and sent to his legislator." The Gober Group said the IP address in question is associated with Hardcastle. They also say Texans for Education Opportunity have started their own investigation on the matter and have found no evidence of any wrongdoing.

But Hinojosa said her colleagues have tried to verify the signatures on several letters and found dozens of people listed were unaware of them.

“My understanding is the members who received these letters were republicans who represent rural areas of the state with whom I don't have a lot in common with except for this one thing, they are big supporters of their public schools, too,”  said Hinojosa.

That’s why she has asked the Travis County District Attorney to investigate the campaign immediately.

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