Conservative Groups Decry Legislative Intimidation: Eight Leaders Come Together to Defend Constitutional Rights

AUSTIN, Texas – This morning, leaders from eight grassroots organizations spanning social and fiscal issues came together to address the unconstitutional actions being considered in the House Committee on State Affairs.

Despite holding a hearing exploring an interim charge enabling Chairman Byron Cook and the Committee to revive the previously vetoed SB 346 — which Governor Perry argued would have a “chilling effect” on First Amendment rights — Cook did not invite testimony from any of the conservative groups that would be affected.

“Today the Texas Legislature is holding a hearing on requiring outside groups to disclose their donors to engage in political speech. That would be a disastrous policy that would unconstitutionally chill free speech,” said US Senator Ted Cruz in a statement posted on his Facebook page this morning. “President Obama and U.S. Senate Democrats have been trying to enact this wrongheaded law for years at the federal level. And the IRS just received 150,000 comments overwhelmingly against its proposed rules to force groups to disclose their donors. The Texas Legislature should not enact these pernicious laws at the state level.”

The group of conservative leaders released the following statements regarding the unconstitutional efforts of the legislature and the Texas Ethics Commission:

Tim Lambert, President of Texas Home School Coalition, said, “The federal judge called the Texas Ethics Commission’s subpoenas ‘absurd,’ and I would have to agree. SB 346 was clearly designed to hamstring conservative groups while allowing labor unions, which typically support liberal candidates, to be exempt. Virtually every 501(c) (4) at the Texas Capitol opposed this bill. Our organization has worked for three decades to protect parents from abusive and intrusive actions of state government, and we have no intention of allowing such abuse to take place.”

Michael Quinn Sullivan, President of Empower Texans, said, “The TEC and Byron Cook have chosen to make Texas ground zero in a national effort to suppress speech. In doing so, they have chosen to join with the Obama administration and establishment liberals in violating the Constitution. We didn’t choose this fight, but we will win it.”

Benjamin Barr, a nationally recognized expert on First Amendment and campaign finance issues, and counsel to Project Veritas and the Wyoming Liberty Group, said, “Dense and difficult to understand election laws drive citizens away from participating in politics and sharing their views with the public. All too often, this sort of bureaucratic red tape prevents citizen engagement–the very notion of self-governance our Republic was founded on.  The First Amendment applies with equal force in Texas and the state legislature would be well-advised not to ignore common constitutional pitfalls while pursuing reform.”

Jim and Elizabeth Graham, Directors of Texas Right to Life, said, “Those who support our public policy efforts and our many outreach programs should not fall prey to the overreaching tactics of government bureaucrats; these freedom-loving Texans should be free to support any non-profit charities just like they support their church or other ministries.  The TEC could target all our members as political donors. Advocacy organizations at any end of the political spectrum should be alarmed by TEC’s actions, which are hauntingly similar to the IRS currently targeting organizations that they found too influential.”

Cathie Adams, President of Texas Eagle Forum, said, “When both legislative chambers passed a bill that would unconstitutionally target Texas non-profit organizations for political retribution, it was commendable that Gov. Perry vetoed the bill, SB 346. In keeping with the real intention of political retribution, the Committee Chairman didn’t even invite testimony of the groups participating in this press conference. Political retribution is ugly. And I sure hope the courts will STOP the Ethics Commission’s targeting of non-profit groups that simply want to practice our freedom of expression.”

JoAnn Flemming, Executive Director, Grassroots America and two-term chairman of the Texas Legislature’s TEA Party Caucus Advisory Committee, said, “Because what “happens in Austin, no longer stays in Austin,” the political ruling class in both parties are gearing up to shut down dissent. Results of the last two primary election cycles have stunned the establishment because they see what happens when the folks back home find out what’s really been going on in the State Capitol. Squelching our “outside voices” is the establishment’s goal.  If they shut us up, they get to stay in power and keep their cronies feeding on the taxpayers’ dime.  We will simply fight them because fighting for freedom is what red-blooded Texans do.”

Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values, said, “The rights to freedom of association and freedom of speech are fundamental to a free society and should be preserved at all costs. Across the country, these constitutional rights are being assaulted by an activist government and its enablers that seek to silence and intimidate faith-based non-profits and their donors for opposing efforts to redefine marriage. We must reject attempts to bring these Obama IRS tactics to Texas that would punish those who support marriage and religious freedom.”

A video of this morning’s press conference can be found here: http://bit.ly/TXSpeechFight