Weaponizing CPS in a Political Race

 

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.

There are 19 comments.

  1. Inactive

    “See something, say something” as policy opens the door to all kinds of shenanigans.

    • #1
    • March 4, 2018 at 9:17 pm
    • 4 likes
  2. Member

    And here, right here, is the reason that Gun Violence Restraining Orders are the wrong thing: The political establishment, Republicans included, cannot be trusted with the ability to unleash the power of the state without the restraint of a judge and jury. They are scum.

    • #2
    • March 4, 2018 at 10:11 pm
    • 6 likes
  3. Member

    Now is the time for the usual commies and their fellow travelers to throw sand in the gears of reform by changing the subject to a fair tax or a consumption tax.

    • #3
    • March 4, 2018 at 11:33 pm
    • Like
  4. Coolidge

    Bethany Mandel: “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.”

    They deserve an apology? This is why I really find it hard to stomach the Republican Party.

    HEY JEFF! They deserve to be IN JAIL!!

    • #4
    • March 5, 2018 at 3:07 am
    • 8 likes
  5. Coolidge

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Now is the time for the usual commies and their fellow travelers to throw sand in the gears of reform by changing the subject to a fair tax or a consumption tax.

    Just to be clear, this is a primary election. His opponent Charlie Green is a republican incumbent.

    • #5
    • March 5, 2018 at 3:12 am
    • 1 like
  6. Thatcher

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Bethany Mandel: “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.”

    They deserve an apology? This is why I really find it hard to stomach the Republican Party.

    HEY JEFF! They deserve to be IN JAIL!!

    No kidding. An apology? Golly.

    There should be a couple dozen IRS people in jail and their pensions stripped. But nope. Absolute crickets. They denied political groups their ability to organize and fund, and thereby influence an election.

    Should be heads on pikes.

    • #6
    • March 5, 2018 at 3:41 am
    • 5 likes
  7. Member

    Your right CPS is terrifying. My kids are grown now, but when they were little and they fell asleep in the car, we would leave them asleep in car (for an hour or so) in the garage, outside doors locked, and the door between the house and the garage open. One of my son’s mentioned “sleeping in the garage” at school. It got reported to CPS. Suddenly we were threatened with the government taking our kids away. As far as getting a lawyer to stop them from interviewing your kids, good luck if they are attending government school. They pulled my kids out of class, without our knowledge, and did their interrogations. Nobody cared to interview me or my wife. Apparently whether or not my kids got to stay in their home depended on how they did in their interviews. Fortunately, the case worker concluded nothing bad was going on. It was by far the most terrifying few weeks of my life.

    Still, I now have a file on me at CPS that I have never seen, and can’t access. I am told that since nothing was found, all records were destroyed. Like I believe that. I think the only way I will find out what is in the file is to run for office as a conservative. Then, I will find out what’s in it by reading the newspaper.

    • #7
    • March 5, 2018 at 5:21 am
    • 8 likes
  8. Coolidge

    Bethany Mandel: 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.

    Are the attorneys under a conflict of interest if the state wishes to plea bargain regarding Sorensen testifying against any co-conspirators who happen to be funders or plea bargain to get the attorneys to identify the funders?

    • #8
    • March 5, 2018 at 5:38 am
    • Like
  9. Member

    I was not aware of this case in Tarrant County, but the “false CPS/APS report” is an extremely typical tactic in divorces and guardianships. I have always thought that the parent who made a clearly false report in such cases should have the presumption of custody AGAINST them. It’s despicable in divorce cases and, I can’t even imagine the evil thought process that goes on where a false CPS report seems like a good idea in a stupid political race. Something is deeply wrong with our system when such political races are “worthy” of such a tactic. Remember the old days when people served as part of their duty to their community ? – but serving was a pain because it took your attention away from your farm or business and you generally lost money/productivity? You did your time and then passed the job to someone else so you could get back to your life.

    • #9
    • March 5, 2018 at 5:53 am
    • 3 likes
  10. Thatcher

    Bethany Mandel: 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.

    I’m reminded of a case in Massachusetts where a teenage girl was taken away from her parents for almost a year-and-a-half because the government disagreed with the parents’ choice of treatment for a medical condition she had.

    • #10
    • March 5, 2018 at 6:02 am
    • 1 like
  11. Coolidge

    Thanks for reporting on this. Cases like these don’t get enough media focus.

    • #11
    • March 5, 2018 at 6:33 am
    • 1 like
  12. Coolidge

    Pony Convertible (View Comment):
    Still, I now have a file on me at CPS that I have never seen, and can’t access. I am told that since nothing was found, all records were destroyed. Like I believe that. I think the only way I will find out what is in the file is to run for office as a conservative. Then, I will find out what’s in it by reading the newspaper.

    I don’t know what state you’re in, but in Texas you can request that the files be deleted if you have a finding of “ruled out.” What they don’t tell you is that it can take years to complete the process (and you’d better keep tracking it) and the files are NEVER deleted within CPS internal records. They will always keep them just in case someone makes another referral.

    • #12
    • March 5, 2018 at 6:59 am
    • 1 like
  13. Coolidge

    Stad (View Comment):

    Bethany Mandel: 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.

    I’m reminded of a case in Massachusetts where a teenage girl was taken away from her parents for almost a year-and-a-half because the government disagreed with the parents’ choice of treatment for a medical condition she had.

    You are thinking of Justina Pelletier. She was from CT, but her parents took her to MA for medical consultations. First they went to Tufts New England Medical Center and got one diagnosis. Then, they went to Boston Children’s Hospital which made another diagnosis and brought in MA CPS.

    • #13
    • March 5, 2018 at 7:07 am
    • 2 likes
  14. Coolidge

    This sounds like a variation on swatting, where someone anonymously calls the police and falsely reports a dangerous situation that requires a immediate armed response. The laws against these kinds of false reports need to be enhanced with some significant penalties to include some time in prison. Our system won’t work if it’s abused.

    • #14
    • March 5, 2018 at 8:53 am
    • 2 likes
  15. Member

    Stad (View Comment):
    I have always thought that the parent who made a clearly false report in such cases should have the presumption of custody AGAINST them.

    How about they should have to pay the legal expenses of the falsely accused party? Or at least heavily fined? Why should this be any different than filing a false complaint with police? Either one is obvious abuse of our legal system and should be dealt with appropriately.

    • #15
    • March 5, 2018 at 10:23 am
    • 3 likes
  16. Thatcher

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Bethany Mandel: 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.

    I’m reminded of a case in Massachusetts where a teenage girl was taken away from her parents for almost a year-and-a-half because the government disagreed with the parents’ choice of treatment for a medical condition she had.

    You are thinking of Justina Pelletier. She was from CT, but her parents took her to MA for medical consultations. First they went to Tufts New England Medical Center and got one diagnosis. Then, they went to Boston Children’s Hospital which made another diagnosis and brought in MA CPS.

    Yes, that’s the one. IIRC, the parents decided the first place was more correct, and the new place got all huffy and called CPS. A long, protracted legal battle IIRC . . .

    • #16
    • March 5, 2018 at 12:04 pm
    • 2 likes
  17. Thatcher

    OkieSailor (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):
    I have always thought that the parent who made a clearly false report in such cases should have the presumption of custody AGAINST them.

    How about they should have to pay the legal expenses of the falsely accused party? Or at least heavily fined? Why should this be any different than filing a false complaint with police? Either one is obvious abuse of our legal system and should be dealt with appropriately.

    I don’t think this was my original quote (check Dominique). But yes, there should be some punishment for anyone filing a false report to the police.

    • #17
    • March 5, 2018 at 1:00 pm
    • Like
  18. Member

    Locke On (View Comment):
    And here, right here, is the reason that Gun Violence Restraining Orders are the wrong thing: The political establishment, Republicans included, cannot be trusted with the ability to unleash the power of the state without the restraint of a judge and jury. They are scum.

    Oh, nonsense- the two situations are totally different. In one case they are using the time limit- as when Kennedy accused Nixon of a “missile gap” (remember when Democrats gave a fig about national security? Me neither); the other is a short term emergency to do fact-finding where there is time to sort out the problem, and would be automatically vacated if not justified.

    Locke On, are you one of those guys who writes about “GOPe”?

    • #18
    • March 5, 2018 at 4:30 pm
    • Like
  19. Member

    Duane Oyen (View Comment):

    Locke On (View Comment):
    And here, right here, is the reason that Gun Violence Restraining Orders are the wrong thing: The political establishment, Republicans included, cannot be trusted with the ability to unleash the power of the state without the restraint of a judge and jury. They are scum.

    Oh, nonsense- the two situations are totally different. In one case they are using the time limit- as when Kennedy accused Nixon of a “missile gap” (remember when Democrats gave a fig about national security? Me neither); the other is a short term emergency to do fact-finding where there is time to sort out the problem, and would be automatically vacated if not justified.

    What they have in common is a political class that is willing to bend the law to get its way and protect its sinecures. That’s what checks and balances were made for, and we are fools if we trust the government with exceptions to that rule.

    Locke On, are you one of those guys who writes about “GOPe”?

    I am not, but it is interesting that you jump to what amounts to ad hom argument.

    • #19
    • March 5, 2018 at 4:34 pm
    • Like