Kolkhorst: Oppose Efforts To Chill Speech

When the Texas House leadership pushed unconstitutional legislation last year targeting donors to conservative groups while exempting labor unions, State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst voted for the measure. This week, she has renounced that position after witnessing the abusive tactics of the IRS at home. Literally. 

Lois Kolkhorst

The Brenham Republican said she has become convinced that efforts to give the Texas Ethics Commission the power to demand the names of donors to non-profit groups is “dangerous” and would “squelch free speech.”

“After viewing the authoritarian actions of the Texas Ethics Commission, it’s apparent that there is potential abuse of power in Austin,” said Kolkhorst. “I have to commend the apparent targeted groups and any group for fighting back against this intimidation, as well as Senator Cruz on his statement demanding our First Amendment rights be protected.”

Her view changed after learning the IRS was going to audit the business she and her husband own, and then shortly after learned that a non-profit of which her husband sits on the board was also being targeted. Not coincidentally, Kolkhorst has been a long-time critic of ObamaCare and took the lead in passing the historic Health Care Compact to remove the state from onerous federal insurance mandates.

“One of our accountants told us the likelihood of both being audited at the same time was next to impossible,” according to Kolkhorst.

It was revealed today by the Washington Times that 10 percent of donors to Tea Party groups have been targeted for audit by the IRS.

While it is horrible that the Kolkhorsts find themselves in the sights of the IRS, it’s a good sign for the constitutionally guaranteed rights of association and speech that she is speaking out.

Here is the statement Kolkhorst’s office issued:

“Earlier this year, I distinctly remember a phone call from my husband where he told me our company was going to be audited by the IRS. We had never been audited before. It just so happened that shortly thereafter, a non-profit that Jim serves as chairman of the board was being audited as well. One of our accountants told us the likelihood of both being audited at the same time was next to impossible.

“Soon after that I watched the congressional interview of Catherine Engelbrecht where she gave a detailed account of the horrific abuse she experienced at the hands of the IRS. The bullying tactics described in that video made what Jim and I went through seem like a walk in the park. Even as recent as two weeks ago, I had a conversation with a local TEA party leader. When I asked why this particular person had not been more active on issues, this leader’s exact response was ‘I can’t be more involved; I fear what the IRS would do to me and I can’t afford it.’

“These instances highlight just how dangerous it is when you give government the authority to bully its critics. I don’t ever want critics of the Texas government or any other group to be under that type of intimidation and fear.  Government action and agencies can greatly squelch free speech with its actions and that is simply unconstitutional. It is because of these threats and potential abuses that I no longer support SB 346 and would not vote for it again, knowing what I know today.

“My views on the outcome of legislation like SB 346 becoming laws have drastically changed through personal experiences. I have been a champion for transparency in government since my first day in the Texas House.  During the last session, this legislation was pitched to members as a push for transparency in the political process. After viewing the authoritarian actions of the Texas Ethics Commission, it’s apparent that there is potential abuse of power in Austin. Balanced hearings and airings on this issue are imperative.  I have to commend the apparent targeted groups and any group for fighting back against this intimidation, as well as Senator Cruz on his statement demanding our First Amendment rights be protected.”

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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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