With the national media finally catching on to the harassment of tea party organizations and conservative groups by the Obama Administration’s IRS, state reporters are busily looking the other way at an attempt by State Sen. Kel Seliger and State Rep. Charlie Geren to do the same thing under the auspices of the Texas Ethics Commission.

Using the misnamed “Ethics” commission to harass political opponents is nothing new, though establishment GOP moderates have turned to the agency more frequently in recent years. A year ago, two of Charlie Geren’s closest political allies – State Rep. Jim Keffer of Eastland and (now defeated) State Rep. Vicki Truitt of Southlake, filed unfounded Ethics complaints against me personally and the organization for which I work.

The complaints are patently false, and most likely even unconstitutional, presented for the explicit purpose of trying to silence us. (Ha! Good luck with that.)

We’re not the only ones. The commission has been used by elected officials to attack voters in Montgomery County and harangue challengers to incumbent moderates.

In case after case, it appears the “Ethics” Commission is really the “incumbent protection” commission, with an emphasis on silencing opposition and penalizing those who tell the truth about lawmakers’ actions. But protecting incumbents and doing their bidding comes first; ethics be damned.

Now more than a year ago, Mr. Keffer had a complaint filed against him for having illegally taken a corporate donation. The Ethics Commission moved to speedily reconsider the case… by fining the constituent from whom Mr. Keffer took the money. Punishment for Keffer? Not a one. Unethical.

So along comes moderate State Sen. Seliger of Amarillo who this Session filed Senate Bill 346. This legislation would (unconstitutionally) require non-profits that attempt to engage in political speech to reveal the names of all the donors to the non-profit. This runs counter to centuries of constitutional jurisprudence. One might recall landmark cases like NAACP v Alabama, where the Democratic-controlled state wanted to harass donors to the civil rights movement.

More recently, the Citizens United case clearly established that political speech was protected from onerous regulations aimed at stifling competition. It’s no wonder so many groups have come out in opposition to SB346.

The only way Sen. Seliger could move his legislation was by (as the Dallas Morning News put it) sneaking it onto the local and uncontested calendar – a clear abuse of the Senate’s procedures. His fellow senators were so outraged by his duplicity (and the unconstitutional language of the bill) they voted 21-10 to “recall” the legislation from the House. The House leadership – Speaker Joe Straus and his lumbering henchman, Mr. Geren – refused to acknowledge the “recall” request.

SB346 is on the House Calendar for today. The only known supporters of the legislation appear to be Straus lackeys and legislators who use the campaign consulting services of Fort Worth lobbyist Bryan Eppstein.

Remember the Federalist Papers? Written anonymously and funded anonymously! Why? To protect authors and their benefactors from attack (physical, economic or otherwise).

More recently, in California a few years ago, we saw the donors to groups protecting traditional marriage come under vicious attack when their names were released. Their employers were threatened, jobs were lost… Mr. Seliger and Mr. Geren want to open up every single donor to every single conservative group (home-school, pro-life, fiscal, property rights and so on) in Texas to be vulnerable to attack.

Interestingly, Seliger and Geren specifically excluded labor unions from these proposed “Ethics” requirements.

If the legislation goes into law, it will clearly be found unconstitutional. We know that two-thirds of the state senate have said the legislation should never have moved. Today we’ll learn which members of the Texas House want to use the (Un)Ethics Commission as their own, private political weapon.

UPDATE: The Texas House voted 99-46 (unofficial tally) for this unconstitutional legislation giving protections to unions while attacking conservatives. All Democrats present voted for it, and a slight majority of the GOP caucus voted against it. The Republicans are noted in red.

Yeas (voting to attack conservatives and protect unions) – Allen; Alonzo; Alvarado; Anchia; Ashby; Aycock; Bohac; Bonnen, D.; Branch; Burkett; Burnam; Button; Callegari; Canales; Clardy; Coleman; Collier; Cook; Cortez; Craddick; Crownover; Darby; Davis, J.; Davis, S.; Davis, Y.; Deshotel; Dukes; Dutton; Eiland; Farias; Farney; Farrar; Frullo; Geren; Giddings; González, M.; Gonzalez, N.; Gooden; Guerra; Guillen; Gutierrez; Harless; Harper-Brown; Hernandez Luna; Herrero; Howard;Huberty; Hunter; Johnson; Kacal; Keffer; King, K.; King, S.; King, T.; Kolkhorst; Kuempel; Larson; Lavender; Longoria; Lozano; Lucio; Márquez; Martinez; Martinez Fischer; McClendon; Menéndez; Miles; Miller, D.; Moody; Muñoz; Murphy; Naishtat; Nevárez; Oliveira; Orr; Paddie; Patrick; Perez; Pickett; Pitts; Price; Raney; Ratliff; Raymond; Reynolds; Rodriguez, E.; Rodriguez, J.; Rose; Sheffield, J.; Sheffield, R.; Smith; Strama; Thompson, S.; Turner, C.; Turner, Sylvester; Vo; Walle; Wu; Zerwas

Nays (voting to respect constitutional rights) – Anderson; Bell; Bonnen, G.; Capriglione; Carter; Creighton; Dale; Elkins; Fallon; Fletcher; Flynn; Frank; Goldman; Gonzales; Hilderbran; Hughes; Isaac; King, P.; Klick; Krause; Laubenberg; Leach; Lewis; Miller, R.; Morrison; Parker; Perry; Phillips; Riddle; Sanford; Schaefer; Sheets; Simmons; Simpson; Smithee; Springer; Stephenson; Stickland; Taylor; Thompson, E.; Toth; Turner, Scott; Villalba; White; Workman; Zedler

Changed to Nay in House Journal after the vote: Burkett; Gooden; Harper-Brown; Lavender

Present, not voting – Mr. Speaker (C)
Absent, Excused – Kleinschmidt; Villarreal
Absent, Excused, Committee Meeting – Otto
Absent – Ritter

The legislation will be voted on a third time by the House (probably Tuesday, May 14) before going to the governor for signature or veto.

NOTE: While the Dallas Morning News has reported that SB346 was on the “consent” calendar, the Senate Journal indicates it was merely buried in the stack of legislation routinely approved.

Charlie Geren on the House Floor, Texas Monthly.
Bryan Eppstein, https://eppsteingroup.com/who-we-are/
Kel Seliger, Vimeo, https://vimeo.com/61054143

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."


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