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 ...

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.

Texas Gets a D+ in Public Integrity Study

Texas scored a 68 out of 100, coming in at 27th place in a national state integrity study. The state got high marks for auditing and for monitoring pension funds, but not as high for accountability of the governor and legislators.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, right, at a U.S. Senate candidate debate on Jan. 12, 2012.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, right, at a U.S. Senate candidate debate on Jan. 12, 2012.

Campaign Roundup: Political News for the Week of 1/18

Four of the state's top officeholders each raised more than $1 million during the second half of 2011. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is running for the U.S. Senate, raised $1.5 million for his federal campaign account in the fourth quarter alone. Attorney General Greg Abbott and Comptroller Susan Combs also tallied seven-figure totals. And Gov. Rick Perry raised $1 million for his state account.

On the Records: 2011's Top Political Donors

The 15 largest donors to Texas politicians and PACs gave a total of $4.7 million in the first six months of 2011, according to a Texas Tribune analysis of Texas Ethics Commission filings. The biggest beneficiary of their largesse: the Texans for Lawsuit Reform Political Action Committee. To see who gave what to which candidates and which PACs in the first half of the year, click here.