Some door-to-door canvassers have criminal histories

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - A political action committee that employs door-to-door canvassers in the Houston area said that about 10 percent of their workforce includes people with criminal histories.

The Texas Organizing Project, known as TOP, bills itself as a group that "promotes social and economic equality through community and electoral organizing," according to one of their handouts.

The group encourages people to vote, and they officially support only one candidate in Harris County -- Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

"I think anybody in law enforcement would be outraged by that association," Mark Stephens said.

Stephens said he owns a security firm that patrols a Northwest Houston neighborhood and recently he stopped a TOP Canvasser after receiving a call from a concerned homeowner about suspicious activity.

"I asked him who he is working for and he said, 'I am working for Adrian Garcia's campaign,'" Stephens said.

In fact, the man was not working directly for Garcia. He was working for TOP, which stumps on behalf of the Sheriff.

Garcia plays no role in the hiring of the TOP workforce .

Door to door TOP canvassers earn $10 per hour.

"If they made a mistake and they paid to society and they're playing by the rules now, I think that's what we expect of people. If they break the rules again, I am going to have a place for them in county jail," Garcia responded.

TOP maintains it does stringent background checks and have hired no felons or violent offenders, and that minor infractions of the law should not bar somebody from going door to door.

"It's on a case-by-case basis. We look at each instance and based on what we found make a decision from there. We don't want axe murderers knocking on doors," said Dorell Douglas, TOP Communication Director.

TOP points to their record of having knocked on 40,000 doors in Houston without any incidents.

The TOP worker who was stopped by Stephens was not charged with a crime and not linked to any wrongdoing connected to his work with TOP. His past criminal record includes a drug conviction.

A disclosure worth noting is that Stephens wrote a book a few years ago called, "Democrats are Dumb."

Stephens maintains this is not a political issue.

"This is not Republican or Democrat. This is safety and law enforcement," Stephens said.

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