Recently, Texans for Public Justice filed a criminal complaint against Tom Craddick, alleging that his funneling of PAC money to several primary-challenged Democratic legislators was an illegal attempt to influence the Speaker's race. Now a different coalition has filed a lawsuit to have that Speaker's race law overturned.
The Free Market Foundation, Texas Eagle Forum PAC and American Civil Liberties Union of Texas are asking a judge to prevent officials from enforcing the 1973 law banning organizations or groups of persons from expending anything of value to aid or defeat the election of a speaker candidate.
The law allows individuals to make contributions to candidates for speaker, but they cannot spend more than $100 "for the cost of correspondence to aid or defeat the election of a speaker candidate."
Although the law was enacted to prevent lobbyists and special interests from meddling in speaker politics, the Free Market Foundation's Kelly Shackelford said wealthy individuals and political action committees can give as much as they want to any candidate.
Instead, citizens are effectively barred from grass-roots organizing to help elect a speaker, he said.
On the one hand, I feel like if we're not going to bother enforcing the Speaker's race statute in a meaningful way, we might as well be honest about it and remove the law from the books. On the other hand, I think it's pretty clear what kind of effect can be had in various races by the forces who have an interest in who the Speaker is, and what their payoff can be. As such, I'd much rather see this law remain in force; a review to see how it can be improved would be nice, too. I see no inherent conflict in there being this kind of restriction, so I'd prefer to see this effort fail. We'll see what happens.
And on that note, the TPJ has a more in-depth look at where all that Speaker-related money goes. Check it out.Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 15, 2008 to Election 2008