On Wednesday, November 8, 2017, the 3rd Court of Appeals in Travis County (Austin, Texas) heard oral arguments concerning THSC’s lawsuit against the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) for abuse of power and violations of Texas Election law and the First Amendment.
At the hearing, the TEC sought to prevent the court from issuing an unfavorable decision by ignoring the legal issues presented and arguing instead that the court did not have authority to hear the case at all.
Background of the TEC Appeals Case
THSC sued the TEC in 2014 over illegally seeking to regulate nonprofit groups such as THSC that participate in political speech.
One critical element of THSC’s mission to defend families is our ability to inform the homeschool community which candidates for elected office support the rights of Texas families. This ability to inform the public is what the TEC wrongfully hopes to regulate.
THSC’s mission is Keeping Texas Families Free. We will not ask the State of Texas or the TEC for permission to exercise our rights enshrined in the First Amendment as we protect and defend the freedom of Texas families.
What Happened at the Appeals Hearing?
During oral arguments on November 8, the TEC refused to address the merits of the case, opting instead to argue that the court was not allowed to hear the case because THSC lacked the proper legal standing to bring suit.
The TEC’s main argument was that THSC could not be regulated by the TEC and therefore could not bring suit to prevent regulation. How did they arrive at this argument? According to the TEC, THSC is not a “group of persons” as defined by Texas law, which is a necessary prerequisite to regulation.
However, the TEC pursued legal action against another identically situated non-profit group, Empower Texans, for four years over allegations that it was a “group of persons” and failed to submit to agency regulations regarding the group’s political speech. Thus, the TEC is now speaking out of both sides of its mouth.
TEC Attempting Parlor Tricks in Court
By refusing to address the merits of the case—namely whether the TEC believes that it possesses the authority to regulate non-profit groups in Texas—the agency hopes to prevent the court from issuing a binding opinion restricting its illegal practices.
In other words, the TEC hopes to distract the court with parlor tricks and escape with the continued ability to regulate non-profits in Texas. We will not stand for this unethical behavior.
In summary, even though the TEC actively targeted and abused other identically situated conservative organizations and adopted rules that clearly claim the authority to regulate non-profits in Texas, the agency now argues that it does not have the authority to regulate THSC. Their strategy is hoping that the court will dismiss the lawsuit without issuing a binding opinion that restricts the agency’s conduct.
How You Can Help Us Hold TEC Accountable
THSC is now waiting for a decision from the 3rd Court of Appeals on how the case will proceed. It is not clear how quickly a decision will be available.
The TEC’s playbook in litigation is to delay the case and run up the costs as much as possible. As a state agency, the TEC has access to practically unlimited funding. However, THSC has now spent nearly half-a-million dollars fighting this rogue agency back into its box.
The outcome of this case will have a substantial effect on THSC’s ability to defend Texas families through the political process. THSC needs the support of the homeschool community to continue fighting this TEC lawsuit battle. Can you help?