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Billionaire's PAC Admits Contribution Error, Seeks Refunds

The political action committee of Dallas billionaire waste magnate Harold Simmons is asking 18 lawmakers to return about $65,000 in contributions after admitting that an oversight led to illegal campaign contributions.

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The political action committee of Dallas billionaire waste magnate Harold Simmons admitted today that it messed up when it illegally donated $65,000 to candidates' campaigns in 2011. Based on recommendations of the Texas Ethics Commission, WCS-Texas Solutions PAC is calling all 18 lawmakers who received funds and asking them to give the money back.

"We are working with the Ethics Commission now to get into full compliance,” said PAC treasurer William Lindquist. He said the oversight that resulted in the violation was his responsibility. 

The admission came Thursday after Texans for Public Justice filed a formal complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission alleging that the PAC illegally donated to 18 different Texas lawmakers last year. The violation, the group said, was that the PAC was funded by Simmons alone. 

The Texas Elections Code requires that a PAC have at least 10 contributors before it makes a political contribution. 

Craig McDonald, executive director of Texans for Public Justice, said his group discovered the violation during its routine processing of campaign contributions.  

The donations went to 15 Republicans and three Democrats: Sens. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Reps. Kelly Hancock, R-Fort Worth; Cindy Burkett, R-Mesquite; Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton, R-Mauriceville; Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton; Byron Cook, R-Corsicana; Myra Crownover, R-Lake Dallas; Drew Darby, R-San Angelo; Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth; Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi; Sid Miller, R-Stephenville; Wayne Smith, R-Baytown; Dan Branch, R-Dallas; Jessica Farrar, D-Houston; John Frullo, R-Lubbock; Patricia Harless, R-Spring; and Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth. 

Few of the lawmakers knew about the alleged violation. A spokeswoman for Farrar said after she learned about the violation she made a donation to MECA in the same amount that she received. Hinojosa said he would return the full amount he received. Bonnen said that the PAC called and asked him to return the money, which he would do immediately. 

Harold Simmons is a major donor to The Texas Tribune.

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