A left-wing think tank that has been cited as an inspiration for speech regulators in Texas is now conceding that “tough” campaign finance regulations and burdensome enforcement regimes are designed to suppress free speech.

In a recent report from the Brennan Center in New York, the left-wing organization praised California’s “exceptionally tough disclosure requirements and active enforcement culture” for a steep decline in speech related to elected officials and elections in the golden state.

Last year, officials with the Texas Ethics Commission (“TEC”) were caught participating in an email group where they conspired with liberal states to advance regulations that chill the speech of civic groups and churches. John Moore, the TEC Director of Enforcement, cited a report from the Brennan Center favorably in his discussions with the liberal-state lawyers.

Since the Citizens United decision in 2010 freed Americans to freely engage in speech regarding candidates and elections, left-wing groups and public officials have worked to undermine the ruling. Unable to reverse the Supreme Court, regulators have chosen to pass rules that make it impossible for citizens to enjoy their newly announced speech rights.

In the Texas House, State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana) and Speaker Joe Straus (R–San Antonio) have advanced forced disclosure laws so complicated that only organizations with the deep pockets needed to fund a team of lawyers could ever possibly comply. When Cook and Straus’s bill was killed in the Senate, the bureaucrats at the rogue Texas Ethics Commission took up the mantle and passed rules imposing difficult reporting requirements on individuals, civic groups, and churches.

Now the Brennan Center is publicly acknowledging what has always been known. Burdensome reporting requirements on speech are not designed with the expectation that citizens will ever comply with them. They are designed to re-criminalize speech the Supreme Court has said ought to be protected by the First Amendment.

Texans can’t do much to prevent out of state liberals from working to destroy the First Amendment. They can, however, demand that our own public officials and government agencies stop working with them.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.