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Destin Sensky and Brandon Waltens, two employees of Texas Scorecard, a product of the influential political group Empower Texans, sit at the end of the Texas Senate press table on Jan. 16, 2019.
-- Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

In the Texas House, they’re seen as lobbyists. In the Senate, they sit at the press table.

It’s become a common scene in the Texas Legislature. A bill comes up for a vote — caps on property tax rates, maybe, or a referendum on “sanctuary cities” — and a text goes out. Lawmakers are told they will be graded on this one, and low marks, they know, could launch a primary challenge from the right.

The sender, the scorekeeper and the eventual challenger is often Empower Texans, a Tea Party-aligned group formed in 2006 with millions in oil money that has worked to replace moderate Republicans with hardline conservatives. For the last decade-plus, the organization and its PAC — which blur the bright lines between newsroom, lobbying firm and political action committee — have aimed, with on-againoff-again success, to upend the Texas political scene, with pricey primary challenges, by-the-minute scorecards of lawmakers’ votes and a lawsuit aimed at gutting a state agency.

Read the entire story on the e-Edition of our newspaper.

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