Empower Texans has taken its fight against subpoenas issued by the Texas Ethics Commission to a Travis County district court, asking a judge to say whether the court can review those subpoenas.
The filing comes after U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks on Friday threw a case filed by Empower Texans out of federal court. That closed the conservative group's federal case against the Ethics Commission but Sparks dismissed it without prejudice, meaning that Empower Texans could file again at a later date.
Empower Texans is trying to squash subpoenas issued against the group and its president Michael Quinn Sullivan as part of an investigation into complaints filed by state Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, former state Rep. Vicki Truitt and lobbyist Steve Bresnen. The complaints allege that Sullivan acted as an unregistered lobbyist and that Empower Texans illegally solicited money for its PAC. Empower Texans says that complying with the subpoenas would expose its donors to harassment and that the subpoenas would threaten the group's existence.
Before Sparks dismissed the case, he had described the subpoenas drawn up by the Ethics Commission as overbroad. The commission revised the subpoenas in response to Sparks' remarks. But Empower Texans said the revised subpoenas were actually worse than the original.
Empower Texans has the right to ask a district court to conduct its own review after a final judgment by the Ethics Commission. But this filing is trying to establish whether a district court can get involved while the investigation is in process.