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 officers. The commission also hears complaints related to these filings and has the authority to fine officials for violations.
Created by a constitutional amendment in 1991, the commission also recommends the salaries for certain state officials and sets the per diem payment rates for members of the Texas Legislature.
The commission is overseen by an executive director and an eight-member commission. The governor appoints four members, the lieutenant governor appoints two members and the speaker of the Texas House appoints two members. The commission holds several public meetings a year. Read the fiscal year 2010 budget.
The commission in recent years has begun to open up its raw data in accessible formats, posting, for example, the entire 10-year contributions and expenditures database in a (very large) Microsoft Access file. The commission also posts a record layout explaining the structure of its comma-separated value downloads for individual candidates and committees. (See an example .csv file).
The commission also has become more aggressive in recent years with the size of its fines against candidates, officeholders, committees and others who are found to have violated campaign or lobbying laws. The commission, for example, levied more than $136,000 in fines in 2009 against both local and state officials who ran afoul of the elections and government codes. That's nearly double the total from 2004 to 2006 combined.