- Associated Press - Friday, August 22, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The Texas Ethics Commission has moved forward with a measure to out secret campaign donors despite a pending federal lawsuit by a conservative group over whether the commission has the authority to regulate dark money disclosure.

The San Antonio Express-News (http://bit.ly/1vp7HOC ) reports the eight-member commission presented a draft proposal Thursday to require some politically active nonprofits to reveal their anonymous donors. It seeks to require a nonprofit to disclose donors if 25 percent or more of the nonprofit’s expenditures can be classified as politically motivated. It would also require disclosure if political contributions account for more than 25 percent of the group’s total contributions in a calendar year.

“We’re trying to figure out how we get to the public information about who is contributing to candidates,” said commission Chairman Jim Clancy, appointed by Gov. Rick Perry.

A fight over regulating dark money erupted last year when Perry vetoed a disclosure bill, saying it would have a chilling effect on donors and their freedom of speech.

Politically active nonprofits are allowed to spend money to influence elections on advertisements and other tools but can’t make direct contributions to a candidate. They are referred to as dark money groups because federal tax law allows their donors to remain secret.

The Texas Home School Association, a politically active nonprofit, sued the commission last month in federal court in an attempt to prevent regulators from proceeding with dark money proposals. That case is pending.

Lawyers who represent politically active nonprofits have said they will fight the regulation.

“This is a slam dunk from a court case perspective,” said Trey Trainor, an Austin lawyer who represents Empower Texans, the state’s highest spending dark money group. “This is completely unconstitutional but perfectly in line with where this commission wants to go with regulating speech.”

The commission will accept public comments on the proposal for at least 30 days.

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Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com