Campaign Finance
3:17 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Texas House And U.S. Senate Take On Nonprofit 'Dark Money' Disclosure

This week both a U.S. Senate committee and Texas House committee took up the issue of whether political nonprofits should be required to disclose their campaign contributions.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are concerned with how these groups are trying to buy elections thanks to laws that don't require such groups to report their campaign contributions.

At the U.S. Senate Campaign Finance Committee hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas argued that campaign contributions are a form of free speech.

“I will note there are a series of canards that get discussed in this issue, the number one is that 'money is not speech.' That statement is categorically, objectively false; money has always been used as a critical tool of speech,” Cruz said.

State lawmaker invited Utah Republican State Rep. Jim Dunnigan to testify on their state’s investigation of the matter.

Dunnigan says, “I really think the chilling effect is when the public does not know who is financing campaigns, when very unfair attack ads are being run and no one knows whose behind them and let me ask you this, if there’s nothing wrong with this hidden money then why was there such an effort to keep it secret” 

But several Tea Party groups say campaign contributions should be considered free speech, Jim Clancy is the Chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission and says that may be so but disclosure matters.

Clancy says, “And there is a good reason for disclosure and that is the source of the signature matter and so people want to know whose behind the speech” 

Russell Withers, the general counsel of the Texas Conservative Coalition, testified at a Texas House State Affairs Committee on the same subject, but both Democratic and Republican lawmakers weren’t as tolerant of Withers' view on matter. 

Withers: "Disclosure of donors to these organizations isn’t necessary."

Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville: "You don’t think it’s a compelling state interest for the citizens of this state to know who is using 'dark money' for or against a public servant or political candidate?”

A bill to require these 501(c)(4) groups to disclose their contributions and donors won overwhelming support during the 2013 legislative session, but was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry, who said the disclosure would violate citizens political free speech.