Attorneys argue statute, Commission rules unconstitutional
Austin, TX— In a hearing before the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) today, attorneys for watchdog organization Empower Texans argued that politically-motivated complaints filed against its president were without merit and that the laws employed are unconstitutional.
Empower Texans legal counsel Joe Nixon encouraged the TEC to issue a final ruling in its nearly 26-month investigation of the organization. The non-profit grassroots group’s president is charged with not registering as a lobbyist, and refused to pay a $500 fine to settle the charge. Empower Texans informed the TEC that it operates as a media organization and is therefore exempt under state law, or the law as it stands is unconstitutional.
“The obligation of the state in this case is to tell us why Empower Texans is not a media organization,” stated Nixon. “Its next task will be to explain why its rules let media organizations enjoy speech protections that other Texans do not.”
Empower Texans president Michael Quinn Sullivan noted that the chairman of the TEC has previously said he had already decided the issue. So on the advice of his legal counsel, Sullivan is reserving his comments for a legal challenge that Empower Texans plans to initiate against the TEC.
“The TEC has no evidence against Empower Texans, cannot tell anyone what statutes it is relying on to justify its investigation, and violation of our constitutional rights,” Sullivan stated. “Our focus is on forcing the TEC to defend its actions in court, so that Texans are no longer threatened with an unconstitutional chilling of their speech.”