Tribpedia: Texas Ethics Commission

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 ...

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.

Time to Take a Look at Cutting Ethical Corners

It's been a long time since the Legislature took a good, hard look at its ethics laws and its own practices. They rewrote some laws after scandals in the early 1990s, and trimmed a lawyer/lawmaker perk 12 years later. With the Texas Ethics Commission up for review, a restive electorate and a herd of new lawmakers, they have a golden opportunity to do more.

For Ethics Commission, Big Hurdles to Reform

The Texas Ethics Commission, responsible for the accuracy of the more than 30,000 financial statements, campaign reports and lobbyist activity records filed annually in the state, stands poised for change this session. But any efforts to reform it will face a challenge, because the lawmakers the commission was set up to regulate are the ones setting the rules.

Texas Capitol's dome
Texas Capitol's dome

Ethics Commission Backs Off Investigative Power Plan

The Texas Ethics Commission backed off Thursday from a proposal to take some investigative authority away from the Travis County district attorney’s office, but the agency approved two recommendations aimed at enhancing criminal investigations of state elected officials.

State Rep. Charlie Geren, the head of the House Administration Committee, wrote a letter to his fellow House members saying that they were "under no legal obligation"to accommodate a Texas Tribune request to submit three years of tax returns.
State Rep. Charlie Geren, the head of the House Administration Committee, wrote a letter to his fellow House members saying that they were "under no legal obligation"to accommodate a Texas Tribune request to submit three years of tax returns.

With Transparency, There's Room to Improve

Lawmakers say they want transparency and that the public should be able to see their finances. But state disclosure requirements allow officeholders and candidates to report their financial interests vaguely enough to hide their interests.

Local Court Runoff Tests Judicial Campaign Fairness Act

A runoff for the state district court in Marshall, the Harrison County seat just east of Longview near the Louisiana border, has two Republicans slinging lawsuits and ethics complaints over provisions of the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act. And some worry the race could set a trend that leads to more money and corruption in judicial campaigns.