The political action committee for Waste Control Specialists, which is owned by Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, was fined Wednesday by the Texas Ethics Commission over illegal political contributions.
The PAC illegally donated nearly $65,000 to 18 state lawmakers — 15 Republicans and three Democrats — in 2011, shortly after the organization was formed. At the time, Simmons was the only contributor to the PAC. Texas elections code requires a PAC to have at least 10 donors before it makes a political contribution.
“We made an error when the PAC was formed, we were notified and we immediately got in compliance,” said Chuck McDonald, a spokesman for the WCS-Texas Solutions Political Action Committee.
Texans for Public Justice, a liberal advocacy group, discovered the illegal contributions in a routine processing of campaign contributions and filed a formal complaint with the Ethics Commission in February. The PAC was fined $6,450.
The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.
“We are disappointed in the meager size of the fine,” Craig McDonald, the director of TPJ, said in a prepared statement. “Let’s all pray Simmons takes more care in handling atomic waste [than] he does in handling his campaign contributions.”
All of the lawmakers who received the contributions returned the money. And the PAC immediately paid the fine.
“We got 100 percent of that money back, and we wrote contributions to those individuals subsequently,” Chuck McDonald said. In total, the WCS-Texas Solutions PAC has contributed $348,000 to Texas candidates since it was formed. As the Sunlight Foundation reported, Simmons has also given millions to super PACs and candidates from personal accounts.
The illegal donations went to 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.
Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.