Austin, Texas, Dec 19, 2019 / 02:10 pm (CNA).- Pro-life group Texas Right to Life has been issued a $7,500 fine by the Texas Ethics Commission for illegally funding a political radio ad for the 2018 re-election campaign of a Republican state senator, Texas sources have reported.
The ethics commission’s general counsel, Ian Steusloff, told The Dallas Morning News that corporations are normally banned by state law from politically funding candidates or representatives currently in office.
The commission issued the fine to Texas Right to Life, the state affiliate of National Right to Life, in November after it was found that the group’s corporate branch, not its political action committee, had paid $37,915 for a radio ad for the campaign of Senator Bob Hall.
Kimberlyn Schwartz, director of media and communication for Texas Right to Life, told The Dallas Morning News that the group had already “self-corrected and self-reported” the error, and said that the ethics commission “is known for targeting citizens and nonprofits, including Texas Right to Life.”
“Due to the commission’s web of rules aimed at limiting free speech, average citizens find it very difficult to be engaged in the political process without incurring hefty fines and lengthy court battles,” Schwartz added.
The Dallas Morning News reported that the funds were used to air radio ads on Dallas stations featuring Hall’s voice starting in December 2017. The ads included a disclosure that they had been paid for by Texas Right to Life.
The expenses were disclosed in a January 2018 finance report, and attributed the funds to Texas Right to Life’s corporate arm.
In February 2018, Texas Right to Life issued a correction, noting that the source of the funds had been “inadvertently” misidentified and that they instead came from its political action arm, just before an ethics complaint was filed against the group.
In March 2018, Texas Right to Life provided documentation to show that their corporation had reimbursed their political action committee for the funds.
That same month, the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops encouraged Catholics to sever ties with the group and instead give their time and efforts to other pro-life groups, including Church-sponsored pro-life ministries, after taking issue with Texas Right to Life’s stance on multiple political problems, as well as their voter guide.
In a parish advisory notice issued to Catholic churches in the state, the bishops objected to the group’s opposition to incremental pro-life reforms, such as laws that restrict certain types of abortion rather than outlaw the act entirely, and mentioned “conflicts on end-of-life reform” and issues with the organization’s voter guide among their concerns about the organization.
“The bishops have been compelled to publicly correct Texas Right to Life’s misstatements on end-of-life care and advance directives,” the bishops stated.
“Texas Right to Life implied that the legislation the bishops were supporting allowed euthanasia and death panels rather than the reality that the legislation reflected the long-standing Church teaching requiring a balance of patient autonomy and the physician conscience protection.”
The bishops added that the group’s voter guide excluded pro-life members of the Texas legislature, and “was not based on a fair analysis of a legislator’s work.”
In response, Texas Right to Life issued a statement that they were “disappointed but not surprised” by the bishops’ “uncharitable mischaracterizations” of the group.