In a letter to incoming conservative state senators, the chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission said his agency is implementing IRS-style attack-rules at the behest of House Speaker Joe Straus’ leadership team.

Legislative attempts to implement Obama Administration IRS-style attacks on conservative groups were stopped by Gov. Rick Perry last year. He described legislation by liberal State Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo as having a chilling effect on the freedoms of speech and association.

In response, the TEC voted to implement rules doing the same thing despite lacking legislative or constitutional authority to do so. A group of six conservative incoming state senators this month penned a letter to “strongly discourage” the agency from attempting to “supersede both the role of the Legislature and the Governor’s clear veto”.

Clancy has now replied to them, telling the senators his action was taken because the Straus team had “requested that the Commission write rules” allowing state resources to be used in attacking critics of establishment politicians. Under his rules, citizens would lose their right to private donations to non-profit organizations that occasionally speak out against the political establishment.

The action last week by Houston’s liberal mayor, Annise Parker, using subpoenas to attack pastors who have criticized her LGBT agenda would fall in line with the powers Clancy and the TEC are attempting to give themselves.

Clancy admitted in his letter that the agency doesn’t have the power to do what it was doing, except through a tortured re-definition of the word “a.”

State law requires that groups which have “as a principal purpose” to do direct electioneering must register as a political action committee. Ignoring both legal precedent and the dictionary, Clancy claims this gives him power to regulate any organization that engages in political speech.

If he implements the proposed regulation, Clancy will be in direct contradiction to binding legal precedent. The Third Court of Appeals in Austin recently derided attempts to redefine “a” as being plural.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."