Yesterday the Texas Legislature debated on bills for the last time this session. There are always a lot of nips and tucks to bills in these final few days, and this is also generally the time where lots of legislation either flies or dies very quickly.
One thing that did not fly by people so quickly, was Rick Perry's first veto of this session. Saturday, Perry vetoed SB 346 by Senator Kel Seliger and Representative Charlie Geren. This bill, also known as the “dark money” bill as reported earlier, would have disclosed donors to non-profits who participate in political activities. Currently these non- profits also known as Political Action Committees, or PACs, donate in very large amounts to political campaigns, which is reported on, but the donors to the PACs are all secret.
The logic for Rick Perry's veto was noted in a strongly worded statement from the Governor, noting that it threatened the donors rights of association:
“At a time when our federal government is assaulting the rights of Americans by using the tools of government to squelch dissent, it is unconscionable to expose more Texans to the risk of such harassment, regardless of political, organizational or party affiliation.”
Of course no one is claiming the donors who donate directly to candidates are threatened of their freedom to associate. What is really being threatened are the people who do not have money to influence these non-profits and are not nearly represented as much as these PACs are in the political and electoral process (which are thanks to Rick Perry still unchecked and unchallenged with no political transparency). During the 2012 cycle alone, according to the Tribune, these special non-profits “used the 501c(4) designation (and) spent more than $300 million to influence elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.”
Representative Charlie Geren is quoted from the same Tribune article:
” 'Certain groups keep scorecards and continuously bombard the internet. All that's fine, it's what this process is about,' state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, said during House debate on the measure. 'The problem occurs when these groups wade deep into the political process … and use a loophole that keeps their donors secret.' “
This bill was an interesting story because it was (one of a few) shell games between Michael Quinn Sullivan and Charlie Geren. In this case, Geren represented not only transparency and equity in the political process, but the entire will of the House. The Texas House passed this transparency bill when the Senate couldn't pass it (even though, oops they did), because this vote in the House reflected more than transparency, but a referendum on Michael Quinn Sullivan and his PAC, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (a great cause with a modest and meager name, yet curiously well funded).
Texans for Fiscal Responsibility is a PAC that traditionally releases rankings of each Texas Legislator in terms of how they score on certain votes relating to “fiscal conservatism.” Michael Quinn Sullivan, the leader of the this PAC has a very pervasive social media presence, yet like most Republicans, can't really call a win, lose, or draw for this session yet.
The House adjourns Sine Die today, and if there is an imminent special session coming, it is expected to be announced today as well.