Established to monitor quid pro quo financial arrangements between legislators and lobbyists, the Texas Ethics Commission now spends its days trying to outdo Lois Lerner and the Obama IRS. The TEC is the wannabe enforcement arm of the establishment’s ruling class.
A fair trial followed by a scheduled hanging? That’s what the TEC is doing to us this week, absent the “fair” part, or any real punishment…
Since I have nothing to lose, I am going to break an unjust law and share with you something I’m told could land me in trouble.
Let me provide some background. On Wednesday, June 25 at 8:30am, the Texas Ethics Commission is finally giving me a formal public hearing on the charges two of House Speaker Joe Straus’ cronies leveled against me more than two years ago. Charges created by a lobbyist for the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and pursued by the legislators’ shared political consultant.
They are trying to make an example out of me criticizing Straus and exposing the establishment. What they want is to stop you from exercising your First Amendment Rights. It’s the brave new regulatory world of speech restraint, Obama-style.
As Sen. Ted Cruz wrote in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month about the frenzied efforts of the left: they are “trying to regulate the speech of the citizenry.”
You deserve to know what the chairman of the TEC said about his plans for you. I’m not supposed to disclose the transcript of that hearing, but as a citizen-journalist I will.
You see, the charges against me are that I am an “illegal lobbyist.” Scary, huh? The commission hasn’t yet decided exactly what it is I do that’s illegal, but they have decided I must be found guilty of something.
They want to define me as an “illegal lobbyist” because I exercise my First Amendment rights as the head of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility: I write about the goings on in the legislature and publicize a rating of how fiscally responsible (or irresponsible!) legislators are with your money.
They claim my news and opinion writing, distributed through the modern press (websites, emails, social media), constitutes lobbying. Seriously.
So here is the part that could probably get me in trouble. The three days of “closed-door” hearings at the Texas Ethics Commission were a complete farce. They contradicted their own rules and state law repeatedly. We tried to have the meetings opened to the public, but the TEC refused. (They didn’t want the shakedown portion of their process to be public. More on that below.)
They similarly refused for months to give my lawyers the audio recordings, but finally half-relented last week and provided a transcript.
During the charade hearing, the TEC chairman – Jim Clancy – attempted to lecture me by laying out his plans for your speech rights:
We don’t want a system where there’s 26 lobbyists in the State of Texas. We want one where there’s 26 million, you know. [sic]
Using TEC definitions, that’s a “lobbyist” system where all 26 million Texans are paying his agency $750 a year for a license to speak. Would the TEC go that far? Probably not, but they and the establishment do want that threat hanging over every Texans’ head. They want the power to fine and criminalize any Texan who dares to criticize government officials or otherwise engage their First Amendment rights.
Here’s more of what Sen. Cruz wrote in the WSJ:
No politician should be immune from criticism. [Government] should never have the power to silence citizens.
Like the Obama Democrats in DC, that’s what the TEC and Straus’ allies are trying to do: silence Texans through the threat of (unconstitutional) government action.
The TEC has a problem: they and their pals picked on the wrong set of Texans. We’ve been fighting them all the way, shining a bright light on a process they’d rather keep hidden.
I have even been offered the chance make it all go away by paying them off. And, for cheap: two $500 fines. Frankly, it wasn’t even tempting.
Doing so would have set the stage for chilling the First Amendment rights of all Texans. We won’t back down.
Wednesday’s hearing is a farce, and one that you should be able to watch online. I encourage you to do so. (I’ll tweet the video link from @MQSullivan as soon as it is available on Wednesday!)
The commissioners have indicated privately through their staff that they intend to make a show of finding me guilty and level a big fine – all to try to intimidate Texans from exercising their constitutional rights.
I urge Clancy and his cronies to double whatever show-fine they are contemplating…Go big… because it doesn’t matter. The real fight starts after the TEC finds me guilty.
As allowed by state law, we will be immediately taking their ruling into a real courtroom, where real judges will see the constant stream of violations of law and rule committed by a rogue agency. It may take a while, but they will face the sunlight they try so hard to avoid.
The Texas Ethics Commission itself, and all eight commissioners individually, will be on trial in real courts before real judges.
This isn’t a fight we picked, but it’s a fight we’re going to win. Barack Obama, Joe Straus and Jim Clancy want to chill the freedoms of speech and political association. They are going to lose. And Texans are going to win. Big!