Do you call it hypocrisy when a group pretends to be grassroots but is actually funded by one person? Is it hypocrisy when these same faux grassroots groups demand transparency from politicians but want their own finances to remain protected under the cover of darkness? If it isn’t hypocrisy, what is it? The reason for my questions is SB 346, a bill voted out of the Texas Senate and now under debate in the Texas House. It passed Second Reading yesterday on a vote of 99-46 as reported by Karen Brooks Harper in the Dallas Morning News’ Trailblazers blog, along with the blow-by-blow of the debate.
Let’s take a look at the HRO analysis to see what the bill actually does:
SB 346 would create political contribution reporting requirements for a person or group of persons that:
- did not meet the definition of a political committee;
- accepted political contributions; and
- made one or more political expenditures, with certain exceptions, that exceeded $25,000 during a calendar year.
The bill would not apply to labor organizations or their subordinate entities.
Under the bill, a person or group would be considered to have accepted political contributions if its members or donors made payments, including dues, that the members or donors had a reason to know at the time of payment could be used or commingled with other funds used to make political contributions or political expenditures.
A person or group of persons to whom the bill applied would be required to report as if they were a general purpose committee that did not file monthly reports. A person or group of persons to whom the bill applied would not be required to file a campaign treasurer appointment unless they were otherwise required to do so.
A person or group of persons would not be required to file a report under the bill if:
- they were required to disclose the expenditures or contributions in another report required under Title 15 within the same time frame;
- no reportable activity occurred during the reporting period.
Itemization of contributions required under the existing reporting provisions would be required only if the contribution exceeded $1,000 during the reporting period.
The first report required to be filed in a calendar year in which the $25,000 SB 346 House Research Organization threshold was exceeded would need to include all political contributions accepted and all political expenditures made in that year.
With the $25,000 aggregate threshold, and the $1,000 individual contribution threshold, I doubt it would affect more than a handful of Tea Party groups. Even if it does, so what? Their First Amendment rights are still fully in place and there is no limit whatsoever on speech. Why shouldn’t the public know who is funding political ads? Again from the HRO analysis:
The bill would not discourage honest political spending. In the case of Buckley v. Valeo, 421 U.S. 1 (1976), the Supreme Court explained that disclosure was an essential means of gathering data to detect violations in campaign finance regulations and deter corruption. Persons who are in compliance with the law should have no reason to stop contributing merely because they would be required to disclose their political donations.
Don’t we want to deter corruption in politics? I surely hope so. But be careful asking simple questions to those that are against it or this will happen to you as it did to me on Twitter:
All I did was ask a question and for that I get attacked. I absolutely support Speaker Straus and if that makes me a shill, so be it. But, if I’m anti-teaparty, why did I go on television yesterday and defend the Clear Lake Tea Party and the IRS attacks on tea party groups? As I have done countless times since I promoted and supported the first tea party rally in Houston in February 2009 and was the ONLY person supporting True the Vote when they were being viciously attacked by the left? But hey, truth doesn’t seem to matter to some people. And just who is trying to harass who into silence?
Many thanks to the Republicans that stood up to the pressure from countless faux-grassroots (and a few real grassroots groups) and voted for this bill. Now, do it again on Third Reading this Tuesday and send it to the Governor – where it will certainly be vetoed but at least you tried to be transparent.
And the next time you hear these groups yapping about this politician or that one not being transparent, just yawn and recognize it for the bovine-processed hay that it is.
UPDATE: For a different view on the “union” issue, see Jerad Najvar’sFact-Checking Claims About the Inexplicable Union Exemption in SB 346at his blog Lex Politico.