The Texas Ethics Commission is set today to dismiss its investigation into Empower Texans after four and a half years of legal wrangling. Now, lawyers for the organization are asking the TEC to levy a $10,000 sanction against the politicians who filed the complaints initiating the investigation.

During the 2012 primary election, State Representatives Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) and Vicki Truitt (R-Southlake) filed complaints against Empower Texans alleging the organization had morphed into a political action committee by engaging in too much speech about elected officials and their voting records.

Keffer and Truitt were top allies of liberal Republican House Speaker Joe Straus and were unhappy that Empower Texans was reporting about their voting records through the Fiscal Responsibility Index. The complaints sought to turn Empower Texans into a political action committee so the organization would be forced to disclose the identities of its donors, thus allowing Keffer, Truitt, Straus, and others to harass the donors into silence.

But an Austin court in 2014 concluded that interpreting state law so that organizations like Empower Texans “morph” into political action committees when they engage in too much speech would be an “affront to the First Amendment.”

Through the investigation it was revealed the complaints were actually assembled by Steve Bresnen, a lobbyist for the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. TTLA effectively controls the Texas Democratic Party and the coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans in the House.

Empower Texans is asking that Keffer, Truitt, and Bresnen each be sanctioned $10,000 for filing groundless complaints in bad faith and for the sole purpose of harassment.

The trio hijacked a government agency and used it, at taxpayers’ expense, to attack one of their political enemies. It is time they start paying taxpayers back.

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.


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