Exoneration Day!

Yesterday marked the beginning of the end of the Texas Ethics Commission’s short-lived desires to be the speech-regulators of the Lone Star State. It marked the beginning of the end of an unconstitutional statute that puts every Texan on the hook for abusive prosecution simply for exercising their rights. And it marked the beginning of the exoneration of citizen-activism.

The “hearing” in front of the Texas Ethics Commission went as can be expected. A hearing in which the commission chairman had already stated in official proceedings, without seeing any evidence, that we were guilty.

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi
It went as can be expected, in the hearing in which the two cronies of House Speaker Joe Straus who initiated the abusive complaints admitted they were driven by political vendettas. This was a hearing where at every single turn, at every opportunity, every member of the Texas Ethics Commission who spoke, brought up our opposition to Joe Straus’ speakership. They couldn’t help themselves; it was the only thing they could talk about!

Throughout the hearing, the commissioners were confronted with the uncomfortable fact that while they had decided to find me guilty, they were doing so with evidence that would not be admissible in any court. Their “evidence” was presented by “witnesses” who conspired with their political consultant and a liberal lobbyist for the Texas Trial Lawyers Association to abuse the laws of the state of Texas and silence conservative critics.

This is an agency whose “director of enforcement” had proudly told his commissioners earlier this year that they aren’t to concern themselves with constitutional arguments or issues. Well, the TEC commissioners clearly believe that.

The TEC has no evidence against Empower Texans. They cannot tell anyone what rules justify their harassing investigation and violation of our constitutional rights, so we decided not to play their game. After watching their unethically-created “case” disintegrate in full public view, they expected to force me to answer leading questions based on maliciously false premises so that they could justify their predetermined position.

We refused to play along. They came after me, but their goal is to come after you. Not going to happen.

And let me encourage every person who is ever brought before the Texas Ethics Commission to follow this pattern: Do not play along. Do Fight them. Do force them into the sunlight. They cannot withstand the scrutiny. And they are toothless to boot.

Liberal Democrat Paul Hobby, appointed to the TEC by liberal Republican Joe Straus, expressed great scorn when I refused to testify. Testily attacking the critiques directed at his out-of-control agency, he refused to acknowledge the IRS-style assault on liberty he and his cronies were orchestrating. Why? Because it has been Hobby relentlessly lobbying to expand the TEC’s power to attack citizens, churches and non-profits who step on the toes of the establishment or call out the ruling elite!

He won’t get the chance. The Texas Ethics Commission as an agency, the laws they have contorted out of constitutional shape, the commissioners and their staff are soon going to find themselves on trial. In a real court, with a real judge, they will have to answer a whole host of uncomfortable questions about their operations – most ironically, their ongoing violations of the state’s Open Meetings Act.

For a group that sanctimoniously calls for government “transparency,” the TEC does a lot in the darkness!

The chairman of the TEC, Jim Clancy who was appointed by Rick Perry, got the most unnerved when my attorney read from the official transcript of the commission’s closed-door shake-down hearings. Mr. Clancy was incensed that his own words were being exposed.

Jim Clancy and Paul Hobby thought they were getting to start down the path of limiting the speech, press and association rights of Texans guaranteed by our federal and state constitutions. They and their cronies picked a fight with bad evidence and worse witnesses.

And they picked a fight with a group that isn’t going to slink away. We’re in this fight for the long-haul. It’s a fight they will lose and Texans will win. Yesterday was just the beginning!

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Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael is president and CEO of Empower Texans. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president, and an Eagle Scout, Sullivan is married with three children. He divides his time between the Metroplex, the rest of Texas, and Austin.

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