A former Texas legislator who has a good shot at being the next justice on the state’s Supreme Court would bring to the job a checkered ethical past, a Bible-based view of the law, endorsements from Chuck Norris and Alan Keyes, and a commitment to “keeping God in the equation” in American civic life.
Meet Rick Green.Currently locked in a tight runoff in the GOP primary for a six-year term on the Texas Supreme Court, the self-described “patriot and Reagan conservative” came in first in a six-way primary last month. The runoff between Green, who has a law degree but no judicial experience, and Fort Worth family district court judge Debra Lehrmann is next Tuesday.
The winner of the primary will face a Democratic appeals court judge in November; but the seat, along with the entire Texas Supreme Court, is currently held by a Republican.
Green once punched a political rival on election day 2006, and his four-year tenure as a legislator in the Texas House was marked by controversies like the time he filmed an TV infomercial for a nutritional supplement in his Capitol office (more on both of these episodes below).
But what has Texas liberal groups most worried is Green’s ideology.
“He has been endorsed by a virtual ‘who’s who’ of religious-right leaders from across the state, and they have been pushing their grassroots supporters to back him,” says Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network, a liberal watchdog group, in an email to TPMmuckraker.
Since 2001, Green has been going around the country speaking as a representative of WallBuilders, a group dedicated to education about America’s “forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built.”
TPMmuckraker last encountered WallBuilders in our coverage of the Texas history textbook standards hearings. Wallbuilders President David Barton arrived at the hearings with his collection of religious artifacts, including Bibles owned by the founders, in an attempt to sway the State Board of Education to emphasize religion in history textbooks.
In this montage of Green’s WallBuilders stump speech, one glimpses his view of the law. “The reason in America that you and I have equal protection for all is because it comes from a higher source,” he says.
Later on, he warns of the horde of godless students emerging from the nation’s universities. “Here’s what we gotta realize as Christians, every student on every campus in this country that gets that philosophy of a godless Constitution — keep religion out of this political process and out of civil government — every one of those students is gonna impact you.”
Green’s success has led to a split among the state’s conservatives — with religiously-oriented leaders enthusiastically endorsing Green while traditional GOP elites, including a former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court and former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, are backing Green’s opponent.
In an endorsement that describes Green as a “constitutional scholar,” martial arts movie star and WorldNetDaily columnist Chuck Norris hails Green as “the type of constitutionally abiding legal eagle who walks in the legacy of our Founding Fathers and who we need serving in every state across our union.”
Green, for his part, has also embraced the Tea Partiers. In a video of a tea party rally featured on his own YouTube channel, Green exhorts the cheering crowd to say that “we are firing the first shots of the second American Revolution right here in Texas.”
Green’s last stint in public service, as a state representative from Dripping Springs south of Austin, was marked by ethical problems, In one incident, he successfully lobbied the state parole board to release a man who owed $400,000 to a company owned by Green’s father, according to the Dallas Morning News. In another, prosecutors looked into his role lobbying the health department on behalf of a dietary supplement firm, Metabolife, that was also represented by Green’s law firm.
Green also came under fire in 2001 for filming a TV infomercial for Focus Factor — a beta-carotene-based supplement that contains “patent-pending ingredients that support memory, concentration, and focus” — in his Capitol office. In the infomercial, Green, who has owned his own supplement company, sits in front of a backdrop including the state seal and flag and says that Focus Factor can both bolster “mental clarity” and “help you physically feel better,” the Morning News reported.
In 2004, the marketers of Focus Factor were fined $1 million in consumer redress by the Federal Trade Commission for making bogus claims about the supplement, along with its sex-performance-enhancing counterpart, “V-Factor.”
In a confrontation at a church polling place on Election Day 2006, Green decked the rival politician who had ousted him from the state House in 2002.
Describing the incident in his self-published memoir (.pdf), Our American Story, Green wrote, “It was the first real punch I had thrown since I was a kid, but it sent him to the ground.”