Texas Governor Rick Perry has vetoed Senate Bill 346, which
“would have required nonprofits set up under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code to publicly disclose contributors who pony up more than $1,000 to any dark money group that spends $25,000 or more on politicking.”
Perry released a statement explaining his veto:
“Freedom of association and freedom of speech are two of our most important rights enshrined in the Constitution. My fear is that SB 346 would have a chilling effect on both of those rights in our democratic political process. While regulation is necessary in the administration of Texas political finance laws, no regulation is tolerable that puts anyone’s participation at risk or that can be used by any government, organization or individual to intimidate those who choose to participate in our process through financial means. 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. I therefore veto SB 346.”
Perry is right on this one. It is true that one can imagine situations where someone effectively buys the people in office who will do him the most good. But that is the fault of Big Government which has such power in every aspect of life and the economy so that people are tempted to give money for personal gain or at least for personal protection. If we had the limited government we are supposed to have, then the government would not be able to wield such powers on behalf of specific lobbying groups.
But Big Government has another power, if it can identify those who are trying to influence it and make their lives miserable. It has the power to use intimidation to protect the status quo. The people who already have power in government don’t want to see anything change. One way to prevent change is to make anyone who would attempt to change the government know that his enemies who are in government know who he is.
Perry is quite right to speak of regulations “that can be used by any government, organization or individual to intimidate those who choose to participate in our process through financial means.” He is referring, of course, to the recent revelations about how the IRS has been used to harass and burden conservative or Constitutional groups.
Anonymity means you can’t be attacked because of your political loyalties and gifts. It is a fundamental structure in a democracy. If anyone of you thinks such disclosures should be made, then I think you have to support cameras in all voting booths that record everyone you vote for. Forcing groups to reveal their donors to the Texas legislature was a naked act of aggression against people who want to have a say in government.
I have to agree with the Red State blog when it thanked Perry for his veto:
“The measure, pushed by Republicans at the same time the IRS stories have been breaking, was concocted by a number of squishy Republicans who wanted to shut down conservative groups that had been forcing the squishes to move right. The squishes figured if they knew who the donors to those groups were, they could cut off funding through intimidation. Governor Perry stood with conservatives and vetoed the legislation.”