Ethics Explorer A Guide to the Financial Interests of Elected Officials

Sen. John Whitmire District 15 (D-Houston )

Industry
Lawyer
Education
B.A., University of Houston; J.D., University of Houston.
Committees
  • Administration
  • Business & Commerce
  • Criminal Justice (Chair)
  • Finance
  • Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Matters
  • Conference Committee on SB 1 (Budget)
Financial Statements

Sources of Income

  • Whitmire serves as "of counsel" to Houston law firm Locke Lord Bissell and Liddell, which has a thriving lobby practice that includes multiple clients with interests before the Legislature.

  • His daughter Whitney is a registered Texas lobbyist whose clients include AT&T and CenterPoint Energy

Property

  • Residence in Houston valued at $1.4 million

  • Condo in Austin valued at $390,000

  • Several tracts near Brenham valued at $3.7 million

  • A lakehouse in Sabine County appraised at $111,000 but recentlly listed for sale at $385,000

Analysis

  • Whitmire has one of the largest campaign funds in Texas, with more than $5 million in cash on hand as of mid-2012. The Houston Chronicle reported in 2008 that Whitmire had spent more than $165,000 in campaign money for tickets to Astros, Rockets and Texans games as "constituent entertainment." A sworn complaint alleged Whitmire's purchase of the sports tickets, constituent gifts from Tiffany's and other retailers, plus a subscription to satellite radio, constituted unlawful conversion to "personal use" of his campaign money. Whitmire called the expenses "a total non-issue" and said he often gives tickets to police, firefighters and other supporters. The Texas Ethics Commission ruled that the purchases were lawful and dismissed the allegations.

  • Weeks after carrying legislation benefiting the Houston Firemen's Relief and Retirement Fund in 1993, Whitmire was hired to lobby for the system in Washington, according to news reports. That pension fund and three others have retained Whitmire's law firm Locke Lord, via the firm's Austin lobbyist Robert Miller, to advance its interests in Austin. Whitmire has pushed legislation benefiting the pension funds in the Legislature. He has sat on the Pension Review Board, which oversees Texas public pension funds, since 1996. Whitmire says there's a wall of separation between his officials duties and his work for Locke Lord.  “I just have very strict rules, between me and the practice, they don’t lobby me, I don’t contact them," Whitmire told the Texas Tribune. "I couldn’t give you a list of their clients if my life depended on it.”