In 2013 the American people learned just how wary we should be of government agencies meddling in our lives: it weaponization of the IRS against conservative groups became public, and late last year, the agency finally apologized for their actions. NPR reported,
In a legal settlement that still awaits a federal judge’s approval, the IRS “expresses its sincere apology” for mistreating a conservative organization called Linchpins of Liberty — along with 40 other conservative groups — in their applications for tax-exempt status.
And in a second case, NorCal Tea Party Patriots and 427 other groups suing the IRS also reached a “substantial financial settlement” with the government.
Is there any government agency more terrifying than the IRS? Just one: Child Protective Services (CPS), an agency in each state which has the ability to rip families apart and children out of the home. In one local Texas House race in 2016, an even more despicable tactic than using the IRS against political opponents was taken: an incumbent Republican’s campaign staff made a CPS report on his challenger in the leadup to their primary.
Charlie Geren and Bo French are fighting for the same seat in the Texas legislature: District 99, and Senator Ted Cruz has recently taken notice of French’s record, stating “Bo’s experience as an entrepreneur, service to his hometown of Fort Worth, and conviction in defense of his values have been widely recognized and are important characteristics in any GOP candidate.” Cruz has declined to officially endorse a candidate while the race is still in the primary stage, but French has not only earned those kind words but also the support of Empower Texans, a conservative PAC in the state. The seat is in a heavily Republican area; the primary race between Republicans is the decisive election.
On the Friday before Tuesday primary voting in 2016 for the same seat, Bo and Sheridan French received a chilling call from Sheridan’s father while out at a country music concert, who demanded the couple immediately return home because something had happened. Sheridan’s father was reluctant to share what happened at the home over the phone, but eventually explained: a local police officer and a case worker with Child Protective services had come to their home asking about the well-being of their children and Sheridan; they had received a report about child and spousal abuse in the home. The case worker wanted to separate the children, interview them, and photograph their bodies for evidence of abuse. The Frenches immediately called a lawyer, who instructed them to refuse to cooperate. The Frenches maintain it would’ve been abusive to subject their children to grilling and photographing their bodies were they to submit to the agency’s reqests. Despite the fact that their lawyer told CPS to speak directly to him, case workers returned again Saturday and Sunday. Just as mysteriously as they started showing up, the unexpected visits ceased the day before the election. Sheridan told me of the repeat visits “I was terrified, I didn’t know if they were there to take the kids away.” Sheridan also told me that despite the fact that it on average takes the agency 31 days to respond to a call, CPS did so immediately in their case, and returned twice over a weekend.
That same weekend, while CPS kept returning to a home where a report had been made which the caller began with the fact that the father was running for political office, abuse on a young girl was reported, and two weeks later she died, before the agency ever sent a case worker to the home. The local NBC affiliate reported on the death at the time,
In a statement Monday, a CPS agency spokesperson said, “the caseworker and supervisor on the case have been dismissed from the agency. A CPS Special Investigator who worked on the case resigned.”
The child’s paternal grandmother told NBC 5 she had contacted CPS to report her concerns with Leiliana’s well-being.
“I’m trying to fathom how did this happen?” grandmother Alisa Clakely said. “You get pictures sent to you of a child with black eyes and cracked lips and a massive green bruise across her face, and how do you pass that up? How do you?”
In response, Clakely said CPS case workers told her they would look into the issues. But then, nothing would happen.
When CPS arrived at the French’s door on Friday, they received a specific report about an injury to their then three year old son’s ribs, alleging Bo French had broken them. Despite not allowing the case worker to submit the children to a full interogation and exam, the Frenches did allow the case worker to look at their son’s ribs, which were clearly not recently battered to the breaking point by their father. And yet, the weekend the agency spent coming to the French home three times, there was a young girl desperately in need of her attention, and the wasted focus and resources on the French family may have contributed to her death.
This past week, the French family, who filed suit against the Geren campaign workers, finally saw the campaign staffers who filed the CPS report deposed. On his website French writes,
On Monday the French Campaign released footage of the deposition of Geren’s former staffer, now Democrat congressional staffer David Sorenson. Sorenson’s lead attorney (a former Chairman of the Tarrant County Democratic Party) attempted to have this deposition delayed until after primary voting—once again claiming Sorensen’s anonymous election-eve report to CPS was an “exercise” of his First Amendment rights. After Sorensen’s deposition on Friday, it became immediately clear why his legal team did not want him deposed prior to the March 6 election.
The French Family’s lead attorney Chris Kratovil, who deposed Sorensen on Friday, stated, “I’ve been practicing law in Texas for 17 years, and I’ve never seen any witness in any case so desperately resist being deposed. Now I understand why that was. I’d like to make it clear what this court-ordered deposition brought to light. David Sorenson admitted that he was one of the few people, if not only person, who was familiar with every single detail in the false-but-anonymous CPS complaint made on the Friday before the 2016 primary election. Sorensen testified that he worked 60-70 hours per week for the Geren campaign for over eight months in 2015-16, and he admitted that he personally communicated these rumors to Charlie Geren and other members of the 2016 Geren campaign team. Sorenson also admitted that he has no idea who is paying his own team of three lawyers (which includes a criminal defense lawyer), at one point claiming that he thought they were working for free, or ‘pro bono’. Every single time we asked Sorensen about CPS, the report made to CPS, the bases for the false allegations communicated to CPS, or who communicated those false allegations, Sorensen’s attorney immediately interjected, instructed Sorensen not to answer the question, and Sorensen complied with his lawyer’s instructions. It’s clear that Sorensen’s ‘pro bono’ defense team desperately wants to conceal the truth about the actual facts behind these false allegations for as long as possible—including until after primary voting has concluded. That strategy is not fair to the French Family and not fair to the voters of Tarrant County. We’ll be going back into Court this week to compel Sorensen to answer the numerous questions that he flatly refused to answer on Friday.”
The misuse of a CPS call in the French case isn’t the first time someone has used the agency to take a jab at an opponent (a journalist was once targed; the subject of a human trafficking investigation over a silly tweet). This is likely the first time the agency, which holds the lives and fate of American families, has been weaponized against a political opponent. After the IRS settlements Attorney General Jeff Sessions had strong words for those responsible for the scandal. The Justice Department quoted him as saying of the IRS activity: “There is no excuse for this conduct. Hundreds of organizations were affected by these actions, and they deserve an apology from the IRS. We hope that today’s settlement makes clear that this abuse of power will not be tolerated.”
The same could and should be said of the French family and the ordeal they’ve been through, while they are merely trying to represent their neighbors in their state legislature.