On Wednesday, November 8, 2017, the 3rd Court of Appeals in Travis County (Austin, Texas) heard oral arguments concerning a lawsuit against the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) for alleged abuse of power and violations of Texas Election law and the First Amendment.
Since 2014, the TEC has been locked in litigation with the Texas Home School Coalition Association regarding allegations that the Commission is illegally seeking to regulate nonprofit groups like THSC that participate in political speech.
What is the Main Issue in the TEC Lawsuit?
The lawsuit centers on the TEC recently adopting rules reinterpreting Texas election law to allow regulation of nonprofit groups. Texas law allows regulation of groups whose “principal purpose” is to engage in political speech, such as Political Action Committees. Regulations include burdensome reporting requirements and the disclosure of donors, among other requirements.
The TEC’s newest rule contends that an organization may have more than one “principal purpose,” which could make it subject to regulation. According to the TEC, an organization that spends more than 25 percent of its budget on political expenses in a given calendar year demonstrates a “principal purpose” of political speech and may be subject to regulation.
Since adopting the rule, the TEC has faced sharp criticism and accusations that the Commission is using the rule as a political weapon to target conservative organizations.
What is THSC Saying About the TEC Lawsuit?
THSC President Tim Lambert released the following statement after oral arguments were presented: “The TEC’s abuse of power and attempts to regulate non-profit groups in Texas are reminiscent of the Obama administration’s use of the IRS to target conservative organizations just a few years ago.
Nonprofit groups in Texas are not required to ask the TEC for permission to speak on political issues. The Commission has significantly overstepped its authority.
Following Wednesday’s hearing, THSC is prepared for the next steps in the legal process.
Continuing this battle against the TEC is part of our commitment Keeping Texas Families Free by challenging rules that place undue burdens on nonprofit organizations. Do you appreciate THSC’s effort? Consider becoming a THSC member to join together with us and support our mission.