While the speech regulators in Wisconsin resorted to SWAT teams and pre-dawn paramilitary-style raids, bureaucrats in Texas have so far limited their abuses to the administrative and civil courts system. However, their intentions are exactly the same. The Government Accountability Board, or GAB, in Wisconsin, and the Texas Ethics Commission both seek to suppress citizens from holding government officials accountable.

Furthermore, if the coalition of liberal Republicans and Democrats running the Texas House had their way this session, weaponized bureaucrats would be committing the same sort of disgusting abuses here that were seen in Wisconsin.

And disgusting the abuses were. Targets of Wisconsin’s unconstitutional John Doe probe are now speaking out and what we are learning is nothing short of terrifying. SWAT teams with guns drawn raided the homes of conservative leaders, moving on them under floodlights before dawn. In one case, police raided the home of a couple while only their 16-year old child was home. In another, police watched as one woman dressed and then broke into the couple’s bathroom as her partner showered. All because the targets chose to engage in politics.

This session, 42 Republicans combined with most of the House Democrats to support a provision in House Bill 22 that would have empowered the Texas Ethics Commission to use Wisconsin-style tactics against its conservative targets. Currently the TEC is required to make a finding against a person and then take a public vote to refer their case to criminal prosecutors.

Under the proposed law, which was carried by liberal Republican Rep. Sarah Davis (West University Place), TEC staff would have been able to secretly refer their cases to the Travis County District Attorney for criminal investigation. That’s right, the same DA who is attempting to imprison former Gov. Rick Perry for exercising his veto power would have been able to bust through the door of any conservative activist in the sights of the TEC.

Worse still, the TEC would have been able to initiate their secret criminal investigation while their separate administrative enforcement action continued. That would create a sinister catch-22 for respondents. Exercise their rights against self-incrimination in the criminal investigation and it would be held against them as evidence of their guilt in the administrative hearing.

Taxpayer Champion Bill Zedler (R­–Arlington) pointed out that the new provision would have empowered exactly the same type of abuses that took place in Wisconsin. He offered an amendment requiring the TEC to at least have a public vote before referring a case.

House leadership would have nothing of it, however. Shockingly, State Rep. Larry Phillips (R–Sherman) argued that the secret criminal investigations were necessary because TEC staff might want to involve the police, with their floodlights, guns, and battering rams, before they were confident the accused had violated the law. Under Phillips’ feeble reasoning, it might be bad publicity for the TEC to publicly vote to bring in law enforcement, never mind the real world abuses.

The Zedler amendment was defeated, and even more House Republicans joined-on to support House Bill 22 on its final vote. Thankfully, conservatives in the Texas Senate had more sense and HB 22 died in the Senate State Affairs Committee without a hearing.

Politicians in this state who say one thing in order to get elected and do something entirely different when they are in office are afraid and they are lashing out at those activists who are exposing their records. But they will eventually lose all of the political power they hold dear, and will be left with nothing but a legacy of dishonor for having trampled on the Constitution.

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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