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The Katrina Pierson Bubble Bursts

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Katrina Pierson
Katrina Pierson

Katrina Pierson, the longtime tea party activist from Garland who’s challenging Dallas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions, is having a bad few weeks.

First, Pierson acknowledged that she had been arrested in 1997, when she was 20, for shoplifting at a Plano J.C. Penney’s—not, altogether, a big deal. Pierson’s talked a lot about how she’s turned her life around after a hardscrabble upbringing, and if anything, the arrest fit into her personal narrative. Then, Slate‘s Dave Weigel attended a Pierson campaign event and characterized her as a “long shot” who exemplified the emptiness of this year’s tea party challengers in Texas. Hurtful, maybe, but probably not a big deal either: Pierson’s potential voters probably aren’t huge Slate readers.

A bigger deal: On Sunday night, the Quorum Report’s Scott Braddock pointed out that Pierson received some $11,000 in unemployment benefits from the Texas Workforce Commission from January 2012 to November 2013—meaning she was receiving government support during a period in which she consulted for Ted Cruz’s senate campaign and was planning for her own run.

Pierson has been a hyperactive tea party organizer for years, doing countless media appearances and traveling extensively around the country to spread her message. When I first met her in the summer of 2011, she was teaching a darkly conspiratorial class on the United Nation’s “Agenda 21″ at a meeting of the Waco Tea Party. Under the UN’s aegis, she told the frightened crowd, Americans would be forced into crowded apartment buildings, and UN-empowered block captains would be “given police power over your neighborhoods.”

When I asked about her activist career, she told me that when “you realize that you’ve been lied to your whole life, it’s an eye-opening experience.” To spread her message, she told me she’d taught classes in Florida, Iowa, Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, Washington D.C., and all over Texas. It was her full-time job. It had to be, she said, because “our time is limited.” Since then, she’s ramped up her activity. She’s a frequent guest on Fox News.

It’s hard not to think that more than a few of Pierson’s fellow conservatives might be bothered by the prospect that their tax dollars were subsidizing her full-time activism—they would certainly be furious if a Battleground Texas organizer did the same. I wouldn’t argue that the jobless should cease their political activity, but Pierson’s supporters might. Sessions, for his part, called a potential federal extension of unemployment benefits “immoral” just last week.

Pierson’s primary challenge to Sessions has been pretty much the only credible tea party primary challenge to an incumbent representative this cycle, so her failure to launch has really been something. Pierson has seemed to flounder, despite her ties to Ted Cruz’s 2012 campaign (and the endorsement of both Cruz’s father, Rafael, and Sarah Palin,) and her high profile in the activist community. She hasn’t been able to draw on the resources that might help make her candidacy viable—Sessions had accumulated over 20 times Pierson’s campaign cash at the end of January.

Sessions is conservative, make no mistake about it. But in his nearly two decades in Washington, he’s accumulated a thick layer of grime. He was an associate of both Jack Abramoff and Allen Stanford. In a comic example of congressional excess, Sessions once earmarked $1.6 million dollars for “dirigible research” by an Illinois company that employed a former aide as a lobbyist. (The company had no previous experience with dirigibles.)

With the right opponent, he could have been ripe for a challenge. You could tell a similar tale about other Texas candidates like Senator John Cornyn, or state Senator John Carona. Both might have been susceptible to a skillful, well-organized opponent—but they’ve faced chuckleheads. In 2014 the Texas tea party could maintain a lot of its hard-won gains, but fail to make advances in some of the highest-profile races. Could Pierson’s botched run be part of the movement’s high-water mark?

Christopher Hooks joined the Observer in 2014. Previously, he was a freelance journalist in Austin, where he grew up. His work has appeared in Politico Magazine, Slate, and Texas Monthly, among others. He graduated from The New School in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in history.

  • PurpleAardvaark

    It has been quite some time (more than 10 years) since I was getting unemployment benefits from the TWC. As I recall, at that time when I called the automatic phone number to make a claim, it said something about having been actively looking for work and not working and possible fraud penalties etc. and when you pressed ‘1’ to accept you were acknowledging/affirming that this was true. I suppose that if you aren’t being paid to do the “consulting” that wouldn’t apply but I’ve never heard of an unpaid campaign consultant.

    • Jack Heesch

      To collect unemployment one must daily also be available for work and may not travel from a home community. Even unpaid, she travelled and was not available for work.

  • radsenior

    Hypocrite – Toast her!

    • WUSRPH

      But you forget, Hypocrisy is the Official Religion of Texas Politics.

  • Poindexter

    Taker!

  • http://TexasFred.net/ TexasFred

    A great piece of work. I used your story on my blog but I gave you full credit and citation and linked back TO your story and biography. I hope that is acceptable as *fair use*.

  • 1bimbo

    ah shucks, i was rooting for her. i wouldn’t call her a ‘chucklehead’ however, she’s a smart, passionate, freedom loving lady who didn’t happen to have the capital to back up her campaign. make no mistake, pierson and other women like her -karen harris and kesha rogers- are the future of texas

    • Charley James

      “Pierson and other women like her … are the future of Texas.”
      Only if Texas wants to edge our Mississippi as the dumbest state in the Union.

    • InvisibleHandInMyPants

      She is on the gummit teat. She is a moocher. A taker. How could you vote for her?

  • glennisw

    Just another grifter.

    • areweallmad

      like wendy davis, no doubt

      • nagej

        areweallmad’s default position on virtually everything is to “change the subject” . . . .

        • areweallmad

          I learned it from your “master.” Obama still blaming Bush for everything, even after all these years.

  • InvisibleHandInMyPants

    Americans would be forced into crowded apartment buildings, and
    UN-empowered block captains would be “given police power over your
    neighborhoods.”

    As one of those Block Captains (caps, please people!), I have committed to the UN that my block will be a conservative-free zone. As a result, the reeducation camps will be the first stop for the conservatives when they are rounded up. Im hoping the higher ups understand this. Plus, the ATF and FBI best get busy NOW with the gun confiscations. Time is a runnin’ out.

  • conservmommy

    all she needs to do is announce she’s not a witch, and she’ll fit into the O’Donnell, Palin, Angle meme of stupid GOP women. Sheesh. We have so many who are smart and able. But the TP goes for the gold on stupid.

    • areweallmad

      Sort of reminds me of the dems with that dimwit wendy davis

      • Nylund

        You’re really going to compare the intelligence an unemployed shoplifter who believes in nutty conspiracy theories and didn’t get her bachelors until her 30’s to an elected official with a degree from Harvard Law School? No one is saying you have to like or agree with Wendy Davis. But come on…Agenda 21?! Does she think there are FEMA concentration camps too? Or that Obama is really the son of Malcom X, or that the moon is made of cheese?

        • areweallmad

          Why, yes, yes I am. Wendy’s degree does not impress me. Didn’t your obama also graduate from an Ivy League school? And where has his wonderful education gotten us? Has the economy improved? What about our status in world affairs? What about unemployment? I coud go on but why bother…Obama’s a bigger failure than the peanut king (Carter) & that’s saying a lot. I had hoped that in my lifetime I would never see anyone as inept as Carter. It didn’t happen. And guess what? Obama is a wendy supporter so that’s enough for me not to be impressed about her credentials.

          • paisano57

            In short, yes there has been a definite improvement in all categories you mention. Stop drinking the koolaid and open your eyes teabilly.

          • areweallmad

            Drinking the koolaid defines you moron libtards. At least get the references correct. Wow. No wonder your short answer is yes in all categories. You’re a complete moron. Do you even know what the koolaid reference means or are you too stupid even for that? What am I saying? I’m talking to a lib. Of course you’re stupid.

        • Joe Smith

          A Harvard Law degree is not worth the paper it is printed on. Look at the moron in the White House he is dummer than a box of rocks.

          • Joe Joe

            Great point.

        • chuck

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=CEHWsdimVO4

          Rosa
          Koire is a 28 year career Forensic Commercial Real Estate Appraiser
          specializing in eminent domain valuation. Her Book
          http://tinyurl.com/BehindTheGreenMask-UN-Agenda21 describes how she has been an
          “Expert Witness” on land use and in exposing the impacts of U.N.
          Agenda 21 Sustainable Development on Private Property Rights and individual
          liberty.

  • redastcyr

    She is one of the most disgusting pieces of crap ever known No wonder she runs as a RW tea party nut

  • RUexperienced

    You may be correct in nearly everything you state. But the fact that Pierson collected unemployment is not the same as being on the government “teat.” It is a benefit fund that is funded by businesses that pay in ratio to how many claims they have had in the past.

  • Puppyme1

    well she always can pose for playboy yo!

  • Anton de Bergerac

    she regularly signed avadavids claiming to be seeking work. That is fraud.

  • Moejoe

    She made appearances on Faux News. In person? Um, the segments I found online were NOT in person. She taught classes? Check the dates of those classes. Most, if not all, of those classes occurred on weekends (because those nasty TP right wingers actually LIKE to work!). She took $11k over a period of 22 months. WOW! And all of this proves how selfish tea parties are. So is it that she’s a black woman with fiscally conservative values that sends you over the edge? Or is it just the fact that she’s black?

  • joefalco

    Tea Partier campaigning on a small govt platform while on unemployment?! Thanks Obama!

  • A3P

    I would hire her!

  • TEvers

    Elect her we need more crooks in Washington.

  • chuckwilliams

    Chuckleheads… what a hack…

  • bedr1

    The Tea Party did really well in Texas State level positions, but let’s not talk about that.

    I would suggest, if the law allows, to run as an independent against Sessions in the General, kinda like that dipstick Senator from Alaska did against the Alaska GOP.

  • Justme

    Just heard her on NPR, she is so full of hatred and intolerance. If she is the face of the Tea Party, it makes sense why people call the Tea Party American’s Taliban.

  • Joe Joe

    Idiots. Unemployment is NOT government support. It’s insurance that SHE PAID INTO. There’s a world of difference. Typical uninformed progressive stupidity.

  • chuck

    To answer your last question: No. Listen to Mark Levin’s Dec 5, 2014 show minute 6.

  • chuck

    Here is the link to Mark Levin’s Dec 5, 2014 show minute 6

    http://www.stationcaster.com/player_skinned.php?s=2591&c=10771&f=3712593