Given the state’s lengthy history of disdain for federal overreach and several attempted secessions, Texas is the last place in America where you would envision freedom of speech being limited. Yet, that is exactly what has been happening since 1993 according to an article recently published by RNLA Member Joe Nixon on texaslawyer.com.
If you believe the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to free speech, think again. In Texas, of all places, political speech comes with a cost: registration and/or paying a fee to the state for the privilege of speaking.
In 1993, the Texas Legislature passed an “ethics” bill designed to eliminate “undue influence” in elections and to require the disclosure of those who paid to play on the political field. To show its serious intent, the Legislature also passed a lobby registration bill because it deemed it important to know who was getting paid to influence legislation and who was paying to influence legislation. Both laws had broad, sweeping definitions so as to leave no loopholes. . . . To secure the most serious intent of this legislation, voters created the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC). . . .
Candidates campaigned in traditional ways.
And then came the Internet.
And with it social media. . . .
Regulating with forms and fines is not just an imposition on speech; it is also the time and cost to defend against a state agency that has openly admitted it is not required to read or follow the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings in favor of free speech. Under the guise of "disclosure," the TEC seeks to require political speakers pay the toll of registration and regulation. Speech is just not free in Texas right now.
The article continues to discuss the implications of such a system on a world of ever changing media outlets. The TEC has been exceptionally aggressive in its investigations as well as the process of levying fines against new media outlets such as blogs, similar to this one, that express political opinions or engage in political speech aimed toward influencing legislators. While the courts have certainly made their stance on freedom of speech issues abundantly clear, this is of little consequence to the TEC who consistently seeks to silence those who refuse or simply cannot afford to “literally pay the price to speak.”