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If Jerry Paterson is the state’s next lieutenant governor, conservative groups and donors will find themselves under the same attacks from state government that the Obama Administration’s IRS has been waging from DC. Or so he indicated last night.

Today, he says he mis-fired. Sort of.

At a forum in Houston last night, the event moderator asked if the candidates supported SB 346, legislation from this spring that would have run against a half-century of American jurisprudence protecting donors to non-profit organizations by requiring those organizations to disclose the names of donors. (Except for labor unions, which SB346 specifically exempted.)

The legislation was introduced and considered at the same time revelations about the Obama Administration’s IRS abuse of conservative and tea party organizations were coming to light.

SB346 was initially passed by the Senate under a procedural trick, but was recalled 24 hours later by two-thirds of senators after they realized the grave problems with the legislation. Liberal and moderate House members, though, refused to recognize the recall and passed the legislation over the objections of the majority of House GOP members. Gov. Rick Perry then vetoed the legislation.

SB346 was opposed by every conservative organization in the state. The legislation would have opened the door to powerful lawmakers and outside special interests doing economic – or even physical – harm to supporters of organizations they dislike. In the landmark NAACP v Alabama, the US Supreme Court ruled that donors to non-profit organizations remain private for that very reason.

But the advocates of the legislation – anti-taxpayer Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and moderate Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) – were unambiguous in their desire to grab the power to intimidate donors to conservative causes and other critics of the grow-government crowd.

The use of government power to attack good conservatives is no laughing matter.

While Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has been running his low-dollar lite-gov campaign on laugh lines and goodwill, the use of government power to attack good conservatives is no laughing matter.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Patterson was directly asked if he supported SB346:

“Yes,” Patterson said and sat down.

One would hope that Mr. Patterson’s glibness was merely another attempt at humor. But when called out on it by a fellow lite-guv competitor, State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), Mr. Patterson said his “was a serious answer.”

According to the DMN, Sen. Patrick said:

“Yes was a funny answer but trust me, for those who stand for Christian and pro-life values, that was a very dangerous bill.”

During the legislative debate, Sen. Patrick took the lead in stopping SB346 through the “recall” effort. He correctly points to the harm the legislation would do to donors of pro-life and pro-family organizations in the form of boycotts, threats and worse.

In an e-mail exchange this morning, Mr. Patterson offered this “clarification” of his statement (and permission to post it).

Candidly, when the question was asked last night, I was not familiar with the specifics of SB 346. I thought it was a general transparency question. If I had been on the floor of the Senate when the bill was debated, I’m confident I would’ve known the details of the bill.

 

Unlike Senator Patrick, I would have voted NO on SB346. And I would have done so right from the get go instead of scrambling to fix the mistake afterwards. I find it abhorrent that in the current environment of IRS abuse of conservative causes, a bill would make it through the Senate with an exemption allowing labor unions to continue to be exempt from disclosure. That alone would’ve made a NO vote the obvious choice. While I support open government, transparency and disclosure, crafting such legislation can only pass muster if it is applied constitutionally and equally. This bill did not do that. Moreover, I don’t think it’s proper, nor a fair and equitable way of crafting legislation, to have bills that are specifically targeted at groups like yours.

As long as everyone’s rights are trampled, then that’s okay? No.

He gave a “serious” and unequivocal answer about an issue he now says he knew nothing about. That doesn’t inspire much confidence in his “straight talk” policy leadership. Given what we all generally know about the abuses such power brings, the correct conservative answer was clearly “No”.

An indiscriminate, universal violation of civil liberties doesn’t violate equal protection? As long as everyone’s rights are trampled, then that’s okay? No.

SB346 was not a “transparency” issue — as the proponents have claimed, and some are being sucked into believing. The legislative effort was an attempt at creating a path for political intimidation and the thuggish behavior incumbents like Barack Obama and Charlie Geren engage in at every opportunity.

Mr. Patterson cannot claim to be a candidate who will “safeguard our liberties,” as he does on his website, while giving liberals and moderates the tools to undermine liberty. Mr. Patterson’s campaign rhetoric about reaching “conservative goals” looks more like his goal is to undermine the liberties of citizen activists.

If this is how Jerry Patterson thinks conservatives should govern, it’s time for the famous gun-toter to hang up his six-shooter and go home.