A congressional committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and a legislative hearing held in Austin on Thursday took up the same topic: the growing influence of "dark money" on elections.
Another common link: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who weighed in on both and offered opinions that, at first glance, seemed at odds with each other.
Cruz attended a federal hearing Wednesday looking at the growth of dark money in political campaigns across the country. Cruz criticized a system that allows Super PACs to spend as much as they want as long as they don’t coordinate directly with campaigns.
“A far better system would be to allow individuals unlimited contributions to candidates and would require immediate disclosure,” Cruz said. The comment raised some eyebrows, as many Republicans in Congress had come out against mandated disclosure measures.
A day later, ahead of a hearing of the Texas House State Affairs Committee on dark money, Cruz took to Facebook to post his views on whether politically active nonprofits should reveal their contributors.
“Today the Texas Legislature is holding a hearing on requiring outside groups to disclose their donors to engage in political speech,” Cruz wrote. “That would be a disastrous policy that would unconstitutionally chill free speech.”
Cruz also compared the proposal being considered in Texas to efforts by “President Obama and U.S. Senate Democrats” as well as the IRS at the federal level.
“The Texas Legislature should not enact these pernicious laws at the state level,” Cruz concluded.
So how does Cruz favor political disclosure at one hearing and argue against it a day later?
Spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said Cruz’s remarks must be considered in the context of the issues at each hearings.
“Disclosure of direct contributions to candidates would allow the public to see exactly who is giving money to candidates and shine light on any possible quid pro quo corruption,” Frazier said in an email. “In contrast to direct contributions to candidates, independent expenditures to engage in political speech are completely different. There is no possibility for quid pro quo corruption when outside groups spend money — on their own, not coordinated with any candidate — to engage in political speech. So there is no reason to require disclosure of the donors for these outside groups. Any proposal to require disclosure of those donors is simply an effort to stifle their speech, which is antithetical to the First Amendment."