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Republicans Accuse Tea Party Conservatives of Breaking the Law

Texas Republicans have accused the Tea Party conservative organization Empower Texans - also known as "Texans for Fiscal Responsibility" - for failing to register as lobbyists and for not filing requisite campaign finance disclosure forms. In two separate complaints with the Texas Ethics Commission, Republican State Representatives Jim Keffer and Vicki Truitt alleged that Empower Texans is acting above the law, and have asked the Ethics Commission to rule on the matter. From the Texas Tribune's story, "Sullivan Says He's Not a Lobbyist":

In their filing, they said Sullivan and his employees lobbied lawmakers during the last quarter of 2010 and into 2011, when lawmakers began their most recent legislative session. "That direct communication included written communications directed to elected members of the Texas House of Representatives and staff employed by them expressing the action on legislation preferred by Mr. Sullivan's employer," they wrote.
 
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In a second complaint, the two House committee chairmen say Empower Texans — which they say includes Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and the Empower Texans Foundation — didn't file required campaign finance disclosures for the last six months of 2011. During that time, they said in their filing, the group was engaged in campaign activities against them and other legislative candidates.
 
Either the group was acting alone and contributed to campaigns without filing proper disclosures with the state, the complaint said, or they made contributions "in concert" with others and thus operating illegally as a general purpose political committee.

Empower Texans is well-known for falsifying information -- lying about public education funding, for example, in order to zealously make cuts to state government. The organization is run by the Grover Norquist of Texas, Michael Quinn Sullivan. For his part, Sullivan is well-known at the Texas Capitol for behaving like the 32nd Senator, or 151st Representative, around the Texas Legislature. As State Rep. Jim Keffer told the Abilene Reporter News:

"He doesn't want people to have an independent thought," Keffer said. "He wants to be able to control everything that goes on, and if you don't do exactly everything he says, then you're criticized, and I don't know who he thinks he is."

No group is above the law. We fundamentally believe in greater accountability and sunshine. That's why we'll be testifying as a citizen group to the Sunset Commission about the Texas Ethics Commission next week. It's good to see lawmakers like Keffer and Truitt pushing for transparency and accountability. We hope this is not just Republican in-fighting, but a consistent value they will champion across the board. Truitt & Keffer are right to point out that Tea Party conservative operative Sullivan and his group are engaging in major lobbying and campaign activity. Based on the many, many, many exhibits of evidence in the ethics complaint, Empower Texans has certainly some questionable behavior that should be closely scrutinized.

Courtesy of the Texas Tribune, here are the two ethics complaints filed by Reps. Keffer and Truitt:

Empower Texans, MQS Ethics Complaint - Lobbying

Empower Texans, MQS Ethics Complaint - Disclosure