On the Records: A Shocking Lobby Gift
A lawmaker who has fought to regulate "stun guns" last year got a TASER from the company's lobbyist.
State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, received what might be described as a stunning gift from a lobbyist last year, according to the latest filings with the Texas Ethics Commission.
James Clark, who represents TASER International, sent the lawmaker a consumer version of its "stun gun," or electronic control device, as its known in the industry. The price: More than $150.
Clark thought Burnam, who has filed at least five bills seeking to regulate the devices, might learn from owning one of them. (He noted, for example, that consumers can't enable the devices without first registering them and undergoing background checks). He says he has a friendly relationship with Burnam and thought the gift would be funny.
"It was kind of a joke, just the irony of him being opposed to it, but I also think he understands it is a valued weapon if used properly," he said. "I wanted to get him one so he could see it."
We've got a call into Burnman's office for his take on the gift.
You, too, can explore such lobbyist gifts in detail now that the commission made several years of raw disclosure data available to the public. You can download it for free online. We've got some applications in mind that we'll be working on soon after the elections. Let us know if you need help navigating the data.
UPDATE: Burnam's chief of staff, Craig Adair, said the lawmaker donated the TASER -- which happened to be pink -- to the widow of a Fort Worth-area police officer who died in the line of duty. The idea was that the woman would auction the device at a benefit in her husband's memory, Adair said.
Clark's gift also hasn't altered Burnam's opinion.
"It hasn't changed his concerns about TASERs. The abuse and misuse of TASERs is still a problem," he said, adding that the representative might file legislation requiring civilian users to get training before using the devices.
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