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Campaign Contributions From 'Dark Money' Groups Under Spotlight at Texas Capitol

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT
The Texas House State Affairs Committee took up campaign finance transparency at a public hearing on May 1, 2014.

Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill last session that would have subjected some groups to stricter campaign finance disclosure rules.  Now, the Texas House State Affairs Committeeis taking another look at campaign finance law. 

The committee is taking up the issue of secret campaign spending by politically active nonprofits – aka "dark money" groups that can contribute large sums of money to political action committees without having to disclose their donors. Committee Chair Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, says voters have a right to know who’s influencing elections.

"We’re not looking at the $5 and the $10 and $20 donor," Cook said at the hearing. "This is really about folks that put tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars into electioneering. And tell me why the public doesn’t have a right to know, because this affects their voting decisions?"

Russell Withers with the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institutedisagrees with him.

"It’s not necessarily about the public having the right to know, this is government inappropriately choosing at what threshold someone has to disclose their participation in the political process," Withers replied.

Some say the debate should focus on whether the group should admit that political activity is a principal activity, instead of saying the group focuses on charitable or educational work.

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