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House Lawmakers Take Another Look At "Dark Money" This Week

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Ryan Poppe | Texas Public Radio
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TPR News

Should the State of Texas be able to track contributions from 501 (c) (4) political nonprofits? This week a select committee of House lawmakers will discuss the possibility of legislation that could track this political "dark money" ahead of the 2015 session.

During the 2013 regular session, a bi-partisan effort to pass a bill that would require political nonprofit organizations to report their campaign contributions was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry. In February, Austin lobbyist and attorney Steve Bresnan re-kindled that issue by convincing the Texas Ethic Commission to hear public comment on this very same rulemaking.

“The rule establishes a presumption that if you give me money and I use it in an election, then you gave me a campaign contribution," Bresnan said. "And under Texas law it would have to be disclosed -- your name, address, profession -- just like what happens with political action committees.”

That same effort is being explored this week by the Texas House interim Committee on State Affairs.  Lawmakers will study what types of groups are exempt from reporting requirements in the Texas Election Code and make recommendations on how to make the political process more transparent. 

Bresnan said currently only political action committees and individuals are required to disclose their donations.

"Right now the PACs and dark money groups are doing exactly the same thing but one is not being required to do what the other’s being required to do," Bresnan said.

Bresnan said making this law would allow Texas voters to see who is swaying a candidate’s campaign platform. 

“Because they will know who’s contributing money in the elections that’s effecting all of our lives,” Bresnan said.

The group of House lawmakers will hear public testimony on the issue on Thursday, May 1, at the state capitol.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.