In Austin, the Texas Right to Life legislative team works not only to protect innocent human life by reducing abortions and protecting patients, but also pays particular attention to attempts thwarting the Pro-Life movement’s First Amendment ability to engage in such advocacy speech in the first place.
On April 20, Texas Right to Life publicly opposed a particular speech-killing bill filed by State Representative Lyle Larson, a Republican from San Antonio. House Bill 3816 would require political contributors over a certain threshold to register as a lobbyist with a government agency.
In his opening remarks of the bill’s hearing in the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics, Larson attempted to contrast political contributors with registered lobbyists. Larson correctly highlighted how registered lobbyists are required to report to a government agency the amount of money a lobbyist spends on an elected official or government employee, on whom the money was spent, and about what areas of policy the lobbyist is speaking to legislative members. Explaining the process of registered lobbying to expose the political process so average citizens can gauge who may have influence over elected officials was the main example of how and why political contributors need to likewise be available to the public – so the public can gauge influence.
The problem with Larson’s logic is, political contributors are already available to the public. By pulling campaign finance reports from a government website, or other nonprofit sources like Transparency Texas, any citizen can determine who, when, and in what amounts someone contributed to a particular candidate or elected official. Additionally, each political contributor is required to provide his or her occupation and employer name on campaign finance reports. If a member of the House Committee on Transportation receives a five-figure contribution from the CEO of a business that builds toll roads, the public can pretty well surmise that particular elected official will be in favor of a bill authorizing the CEO’s company to provide a toll road in Houston. To allow public scrutiny, registration as a lobbyist is not needed.
With Larson’s alleged main reason for bringing HB 3816 to the Texas House of Representatives debunked, the real reasons for such legislation emerge. House Bill 3816 is not about public transparency; the measure is about placing burdensome regulations on an individual’s ability to exercise protected First Amendment speech – engaging in election and supporting like-minded candidates. At the end of the day, this bill simply places cumbersome requirements on the ability to support or oppose candidates of one’s choice if you are a generous Texan wishing to financially engage in elections.
Larson must not have many such contributors.
Once again, the reigning cartel of liberal Republicans running the Texas House of Representatives is increasingly upset over honest, liberty-focused citizens funding honest, liberty-focused candidates for our state government. Luckily, the First Amendment would never allow such shenanigans to actually become law.
Perhaps the Texas House of Representatives would be better served addressing actual ethics reforms to elected officials themselves. Reforms to hold elected officials accountable to the public (not hold the public accountable to politicians) have been deemed emergency items from Governor Greg Abbott. These ethics reforms have passed the Senate, but have been languishing in the Texas House of Representatives since the beginning of February.