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State Ethics Body Takes Aim At “Dark Money” Groups, Approves New Regulation

With a unanimous vote, members of the Texas Ethics Commission approved new regulations that require that “Dark Money” groups reveal all political contributions. 

The new regulation requires all politically active nonprofits that have donated more than 25 percent of their annual budgets to campaigns, disclose their list of anonymous donors. The chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission, Jim Clancy, says he is troubled by the battle over whether our government would be run in secret.

“It’s important we identify and resist attempts for government to be funded anonymously,” said Clancy.

But some groups claim the resolution restricts these nonprofits’ “freedom of speech.” Austin attorney and lobbyist, Steve Bressan, authored a unsuccessful proposal similar to this week’s resolution.

“The ability of spend as much money as you want to spend, and to say what you want to say, isn’t affected topside to bottom by the rules. It’s just [that] we’re going to have disclosure of where the money came from, and how the money was spent,” said Bressan.

Attorney Joe Nixon represents the nonprofit Empower Texans, one of the chief opponents of the Dark Money resolution. And in his view, a group can’t be defined as a political nonprofit if 26 percent of their funds goes toward campaigns.

“You can’t have a principal purpose that’s 26 percent of your organization’s activities, when 74 percent of your organization might be something else,” said Nixon.

One option Empower Texans has, is a legal challenge to the Ethics Commission’s ruling.