Chamber Challenges Texas Ruling on Political Mailings

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is challenging a Texas trial court ruling that requires a Texas organization to disclose information about its political mailings.


In a friend-of-the-court brief, the chamber challenged a ruling that forces the Texas Association of Business and others to yield names of those who solicited or expended funds for this political speech without first determining whether those mailings contained express words of electoral advocacy.


"Texas lacks the authority to regulate independent political speech unless the speech contains express advocacy," Stephen Bokat, executive vice president of the chamber's National Chamber Litigation Center, said in a statement. "That determination must be made as a threshold matter in order to preserve First Amendment rights."


In 2002, the Texas Association of Business and its political action committee distributed information to voters through direct mail on races for the Texas House of Representatives and Senate.


According to the chamber, an unsuccessful Texas House candidate sued, alleging that these mailings violated provisions of the Texas Election Code, including coordination with candidates. The business groups denied coordinating their mailings with candidates running for office.


A Washington-based lobby, the chamber is the world's largest business federation. It defends business on issues including implications to free speech from court rulings.


"Independent political speech can justify compelled disclosure only if the speech contains express words of electoral advocacy," Bokat said in the statement. "The trial court made no finding that the speech at issue contained such advocacy."


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