Texans are again safe from the threat of official harassment and intimidation simply by virtue of their contributing to nonprofit entities that speak out politically, thanks to a veto by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Gov. Perry vetoed Senate Bill 346, which the bill authors (moderate State Sen. Kel Seliger and State Rep. Charlie Geren) and others singled out Texans for Fiscal Responsibility as their legislative target. But make no mistake: The legislation would have injured every homeschooler, pro-life group, and tea party organization—Anyone who dares to challenge the ruling elite.
Guys like Geren and Seliger don’t like to be challenged. More importantly, they don’t like sunlight being shown on legislative records that run counter to the pictures they paint of themselves back home. Rather than reform, they want to apply political and regulatory pressure to those who oppose them. That meant prying away at the constitutional privacy protections afforded to those who donate to nonprofit organizations.
The threat was very real and personal to many.
A broad coalition of groups and organizations spoke out against a measure that was as improperly handled procedurally as it was misguided in intent.
The governor’s veto of SB 346 sends a welcome and important message: the Lone Star State won’t tolerate infringements on clear constitutional rights or chilling limitations on political speech.
“Freedom of association and freedom of speech are two of our most important rights enshrined in the Constitution. My fear is that SB 346 would have a chilling effect on both of those rights in our democratic political process. While regulation is necessary in the administration of Texas political finance laws, no regulation is tolerable that puts anyone’s participation at risk or that can be used by any government, organization or individual to intimidate those who choose to participate in our process through financial means.
“At a time 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. I therefore veto SB 346.”
Even as the nation was realizing that the Obama Administration was targeting tea party groups with the IRS in recent weeks, Sen. Seliger and Rep. Geren were maliciously working to undermine bedrock principles of political privacy. Mr. Seliger pushed his legislation sneakily through the Senate’s process — enough so that two-thirds of the Senate, after realizing what he had done, took the extraordinary step of recalling the measure.
Meanwhile, the House Democrats and a minority of the GOP voted to help Mr. Geren ramrod his bill on to the governor for its eventual demise. Mr. Geren also tried to attack the language to an omnibus ethics reform bill, but House-Senate conferees rejected that language yesterday.