Tribpedia: Texas Ethics Commission

Tribpedia

The Texas Ethics Commission is responsible for administering and enforcing sections of the election code and other statutory provisions generally governing politics and ethics in the state.

Among its key duties is the collecting and maintaining of records related to political fundraising and spending, lobbying activity reports and the filing of personal financial disclosure statements by state elected officials and ...

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For Lawmakers, Ethics Reform is Complicated

It's easier, it seems, for lawmakers to regulate others than to regulate themselves. Ethics and transparency legislation has had a bumpy ride in the current legislative session. Lawmakers turned away proposals to tighten their personal financial disclosures — stricter federal standards were suggested by some as a good model — and to put those reports online where voters can see them.

 

Questions of Contradiction in Ethics Bills

In this session's ethics battles, watchdogs say there’s more contradiction than conviction. Lawmakers want politically active nonprofits to disclose their donors, but are in no rush to reveal their own business contracts. The same nonprofits want lawmakers to be more transparent with public money, but want to protect the privacy of their own donors. 

A Pay Raise With a Little Something Extra

Lawmakers are talking seriously about a 21.5 percent pay raise for state district judges. That raise would also mean a 21.5 percent bump in the pensions of lawmakers. It's a vote that opens politicians to criticism for fluffing their own financial pillows while leaving other budget items without enough money.

Disclosure Bills Get Little Love From Top Leaders

Texas Weekly

"Government transparency" is the term du jour for state leaders. But with just four weeks remaining in the legislative session, there has been little to no pressure from the top, including key committee chairs, to pass measures that would force greater transparency — and better disclosure — upon Texas’ elected officials.

 

 

Interactive: Tracking Texas' Ethics Legislation

State lawmakers have talked a big game this year on transparency and ethics, but with less than a month to go in the 83rd session, the measures they’ve filed haven’t made much progress. Use our interactive to view the bills by subject matter — from campaign finance to disclosure to lobbying — and see where they stand in the legislative process. 

The Love-Hate Relationship With Transparency

Texas Weekly

One Texan's transparency is another’s right to privacy, and people in politics generally find it easier to demand openness than to provide it. “They all say they want transparency,” said freshman Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake. “And in the same breath that they say they’re for transparency, they’re talking about how to remove it.” 

Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Marble Falls.
Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Marble Falls.

Exotic Trips, Luxury Gifts Are Perks of Elective Office

Many Texas lawmakers are quick to name the sacrifices they make to serve: the meager state pay, the grueling hours, the time spent away from their families and their day jobs. But life in the Lege is not half bad. The perks associated with the job — exotic trips, hotel upgrades and campaign cash spent on luxury gifts — can dramatically augment their lifestyles.

Watchdogs: Ethics Loopholes Obscure Lobby Perks

Whether it’s lobbyists’ spending on legislators or lawmakers who don't disclose their spouses' interests on personal financial statements, Texas ethics laws are full of holes. Government watchdogs say the loopholes make it difficult for the public to know who might be doing favors for whom under the Capitol dome.

(l to r) Jim Jackson, Rob Eissler, Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton, Vicki Truitt, (second row) Aaron Peña, Chuck Hopson, Burt Solomons, Rick Hardcastle
(l to r) Jim Jackson, Rob Eissler, Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton, Vicki Truitt, (second row) Aaron Peña, Chuck Hopson, Burt Solomons, Rick Hardcastle

Leaving the Legislature, but Not Going Too Far

Soon after their replacements were sworn in last month, eight former House members registered as lobbyists with the Texas Ethics Commission. Some lawmakers have filed bills barring their colleagues from becoming lobbyists so quickly after leaving their seats.

Texas Ethics, Then and Now

The last substantial Texas ethics reforms passed during the 72nd legislative session. It wasn't easy then — and won't be easy now. But current members pushing for some new rules say they're optimistic that their colleagues will support making the state's disclosure process more transparent.

 

Jim Clancy and Paul Hobby: The TT Interview

The new chairman and vice chairman of the eight-member Texas Ethics Commission board on the state’s existing disclosure rules, their efforts to prioritize certain types of ethics complaints and the reforms they anticipate in the 83rd legislative session. 

A portrait of power in Texas in 1970: House Speaker Gus Mutscher, Governor Preston Smith, former president Lyndon Johnson, and Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes, at "Gus Mutscher Day" in Brenham, August 17, 1970.
A portrait of power in Texas in 1970: House Speaker Gus Mutscher, Governor Preston Smith, former president Lyndon Johnson, and Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes, at "Gus Mutscher Day" in Brenham, August 17, 1970.

Texas Ethics Reform: A Long, Tortured History

From Gov. James "Pa" Ferguson's impeachment to the Sharpstown scandal, Texas has weathered some mighty ethics controversies. While reforms were passed in the wake of Sharpstown, the Legislature still faces criticism over lax disclosure rules and cozy ties with lobbyists.

Some Public Business Remains in the Shadows

Politicians love transparency right now — or love to talk about it. But some of their efforts to open their own records to voters aren't clear, and some that are clear aren't timely. Some public records — including some with a direct bearing on how lawmakers vote and conduct their official duties — just aren't readily available to the public.

Lobbyists Who Dine From Both Sides of Plate

Lobbyists are competitive creatures, and don't like it when somebody gets an advantage — like political consultants who lobby during the political off-season. But they haven't found a way to regulate the practice. Meanwhile, some consultants have found ways to talk to members about their votes without registering as lobbyists.