Wednesday, May 6, 2015

TPPF: Freedom of Association vs. Forced Disclosure

"So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;"
James 1:19

Texas Public Policy Foundation -- Last night, TPPF hosted an event discussing the perils of donor intimidation vs. "disclosure."  Participants were Paul Avelar of the Institute for Justice and Vice Chairman Chase Untermeyer of the Texas Ethics Commission.  Mr. Untermeyer's words speak for themselves.

Untermeyer opening remarks:

  • Asked Joe Straus to put him on the "Ethics" Commission.
  • "The status quo is usually the right course."
  • "Ethics" Commission only has civil jurisdiction.
  • Empower Texans case wasn't about disclosure.
  • Attacks against donors aren't retaliation, they're "politics."

  • Anonymity is inherently suspect?!?
  • Transparency leads to trust.
  • We vote in private for a reason.
  • "Dark money" goes to a non-profit.

  • Discussing Texas-specific topics could make him a lobbyist.
  • Non-profits can inform voters of politicians records.
  • "Not liking what is being said is not reason to restrict speech."
  • It's not the government's business.
  • Sometimes, unpopular speech needs to be anonymous.
  • The best judge of speech is the speech itself.
  • These types of political reprisals are well documented.

  • Untermeyer scared of the term "Dark Money."
  • The public does not have an interest in knowing who pays for a non-profit campaign that the government can enforce.
    • It's the organization's choice.
  • "The speaker controls the message in America."

  • Belittles Avelar's examples.
  • Empower Texans has more influence than NAACP in Alabama.
  • TPPF doesn't get involved in elections, so who cares?!?

  • Most people believe in "privacy for me but not for thee."
  • Non-profits can't have their main function be influencing elections.
  • "Undue influence" standard "is dangerous."
    • Legal morass
Untermeyer summation:

  • "There is no public harm in disclosure."
    • Author's Note: Talk about Chutzpah

  • ISIS attack in Garland proves how far people are willing to go to shut down speech.
  • Americans are no more influenced by political ads than from commercial ads.
    • You still need a good product underneath.
    • cf. New Coke


  • Disclosure laws have the greatest effect on small donors with regular lives.
  • Political branches are full of incumbents.
  • Untermeyer dodges Tony McDonald's question.
  • Mozilla CEO was discovered by California disclosure laws.
    • Untermeyer didn't care
  • Internet has made donor intimidation much easier.
    • There are groups that mine this data.
  • Untermeryer: Donors to big, established organizations have more rights.
  • You can evaluate speech on it's own merits.

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