After having an unconstitutional-power grab explicitly vetoed last year by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the Texas Ethics Commission is rushing forward with a new regulation designed to silence critics of government and chill the freedom of association.

Ironically, this is the one policy issue where Republicans in Washington, DC, are fighting more effectively than their elected counterparts in Texas. Conservatives in our nation’s capitol are winning the fight to protect First Amendment rights by stopping these unconstitutional rules and those pushing them.

Earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz called on legislators to oppose such “pernicious laws,” saying Texas must not adopt a “disastrous policy that would unconstitutionally chill free speech.”

Yet the unelected commissioners voted on Thursday to proceed with their rule requiring 501c4 nonprofits to list the names of donors.

This is basically a regulatory version of legislation passed by Democrats and liberal Republicans but vetoed by the governor. That legislation, authored by “Republican” clients of Tarrant County lobbyist Bryan Eppstein, explicitly exempted labor unions.

Straus’ allies want the names of donors to conservative organizations for one reason: so powerful committee chairmen can call the donors and threaten them. At least one conservative Texas group has publicly noted that one of Straus’ House committee chairmen has made calls threatening to block known donors’ business interests.

You will remember that the Straus initiative came at the same time the nation was learning about Barack Obama’s IRS speech-regulator, Lois Lerner, using the power of her agency to attack conservative groups.

Texas’ senior senator, John Cornyn, called the IRS abuses (now being mimicked by the TEC) “a breach of faith and potentially violations of criminal law.”

In vetoing the legislation last year, Perry wrote that “when our federal government is assaulting the rights of Americans by using the tools of government to squelch dissent it is unconscionable to expose more Texans to the risk of such harassment, regardless of political, organizational or party affiliation.”

The proposed rule goes further than what even the IRS was attempting. The power commissioners are giving themselves would let them dig into any politically active non-profit’s books to decide if the commission believes the non-profit should being making a report.

This is crazy, broad new authority that the TEC is granting itself without even the tiniest bit of law to back it up. It makes IRS look tame, by comparison.

Working to implement this unconstitutional (and illegal) power grab is Jim Clancy, a failed “Republican” candidate for state representative who now chairs the TEC. He is being aided by Paul Hobby, whose chief claim to fame is being the son of a Democratic politician.

It is worth noting that while they are just now pursuing this rule, Clancy and Hobby have been doggedly pursuing TFR for violating the very rule before it even existed. Ex post facto laws are unconstitutional, but clearly neither the law nor the constitution matters to these two lawyers.

The Texas Home School Coalition has filed a federal lawsuit against the TEC over this issue in Lubbock County. Scofflaws Clancy and Hobby have been unethically operating outside the boundaries of the law in their agency’s efforts to chill the freedoms of speech, association and press and the THSC aims to stop them.

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."