The Texas Ethics Commission has fined a Travis County political consultant who the commission says created a deceptive website to attack a candidate running last year to be chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party, according to a recent ruling.
The website was created in October and featured some of former candidate Mike Lewis’ old Facebook posts from when he used to be a Republican. Another post featured a meme making light of the sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby.
Lewis withdrew his candidacy after the social media posts went public.
Lewis filed a complaint with the commission in December against the consultant, Jovita Pardo, and Anne Wynne, another candidate seeking to be the Democratic Party’s chair. Lewis dropped his complaint against Wynne that same month.
On Tuesday, the Texas Ethics Commission fined Pardo $1,500 after determining that she broke state election code by misrepresenting who created the website.
“This is a moment when Democrats can pause, reflect, and make sure that we’re campaigning above board,” Lewis said in a statement Friday.
The website Pardo created, Lewis4Chair.com, “was nearly identical in name to” Lewis’ website, LewisforChair.com, the commission said in a resolution. Lewis4Chair.com redirected users to another website, TheRealMikeLewis.com, which displayed Lewis’ Facebook posts.
Unlike Lewis4Chair.com, TheRealMikeLewis.com had a political disclaimer saying the site was paid for by the Keep Travis County Blue PAC, which was a correct representation, the commission said.
“The settlement approved addressed only a technical issue,” Pardo said in a statement. “I settled simply to avoid unnecessary expenses and attorneys’ fees.”
Pardo did not respond Friday to questions about her role in creating the websites.
Pardo was an unpaid volunteer for Wynne’s campaign. She is also chief operating officer of GNI Strategies, a digital and political consulting firm.
Wynne has denied any connection to the anti-Lewis website.
After Lewis dropped out, Wynne and Dyana Limon Mercado, an executive with a Planned Parenthood advocacy group, jumped into the race. Limon Mercado won and is currently the party’s chairwoman.
“At the end of the day, Travis County elected a long-time, progressive Latina to lead our local party, which is a step in the right direction towards achieving the equity and representation our county deserves,” Pardo said Friday.