Mayor Turner purchases dozens of memberships for GLBT political caucus

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is once again coming under scrutiny over campaign funds.

FOX 26 reported back in May that Turner was going to keep about $50,000 in political contributions that came from local strip clubs. This time it’s about how that money is being spent.

On Monday, an e-mail from a staff member of Mayor Turner’s re-election campaign was leaked on social media, showing that a $4,660 check was mailed out to pay for 170 new memberships for the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.

This didn’t sit well with current members of the caucus, feeling that Turner’s team was trying to buy their endorsement. On social media, the members said they were going to bring it up on Wednesday’s meeting at the Montrose Center.

Our cameras weren’t allowed inside the meeting, so we spoke with Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Mike Webb earlier. He says candidates may buy memberships, but they can’t buy votes.

“Each member has the right to vote on however way they want to vote," said Webb.

Webb tells us the practice of accepting new recruits and membership money from candidates has been happening with their organization since the 1980’s.

“Every campaign so far that has recruited members into our organization has followed our own policies ,and procedures, and rules as it comes to recruiting campaign, and Mayor Turner is not the only campaign in this upcoming municipal election that has recruited memberships to our organization," said Webb.

In fact, candidates running for city council and other offices have paid for memberships. An endorsement from the GLBT Caucus is one of the most sought after. Mayor Turner was endorsed by them in the 2015 election.

But their political popularity has current members concerned. 

“Rather than a specific candidate rounding up friends and family and families, 20, 30, 40 here, now you’re talking now you’re talking about 170 memberships paid by one singular candidate," says Lane Lewis, former President of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. "It would not have raised so many alarm bells for so many people if it had been 170 membership applications. But instead from my understanding it was just a spreadsheet and a check."

There are currently 550 members in the GLBT Caucus that joined on their own, which according to Webb, would make it impossible for new members planted by a candidate to take over the vote.

“If we felt that bought members were taking the organization into a direction that was not in line with our values, I am 100% confident in our organic members that they would take ownership of that motion, and vote in what is best for the organization," said Webb.

Mayor Turner’s campaign team has declined to comment on our story. We will have to see on August 3, when all the mayoral candidates have a chance to address the GLBT Caucus, how their members will vote, and which candidate gets their endorsement.