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Sullivan Rejects Ethics Commission Settlement Offer

Michael Quinn Sullivan rejected a proposed settlement from the Texas Ethics Commission with a simple response: the word "NUTS" where his signature would have gone.

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Michael Quinn Sullivan, a conservative gadfly and president of Empower Texans, succinctly and emphatically rejected a proposed settlement from the Texas Ethics Commission that was intended to resolve allegations that he failed to file as a registered lobbyist in 2010 and 2011.

In a letter sent Wednesday from his lawyer, Sullivan returned a copy of the proposed deal with the word "NUTS" in red across the last page in place of his signature.

Sullivan explained in a press release that he was alluding to the response that the 101st Airborne Division gave to the Germans' demand for surrender at the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.

"We’re taking the same approach,” said Sullivan. “And just like the Allies won the Battle of the Bulge, so too will conservatives triumph over the speech-regulators at the Texas Ethics Commission.”

The commission met behind closed doors on Oct. 29 and Nov. 4 to consider a complaint filed by state Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, and former state Rep. Vicki Truitt that alleged Sullivan was an unregistered lobbyist. Under the proposed settlement offer, which was dated Nov. 5, the commission would have imposed a $1,000 civil penalty and required Sullivan to file as a lobbyist for the 2010 and 2011 calendar years.

That was a nonstarter, former state Rep. Joe Nixon, Sullivan's attorney, said in the press release from Sullivan and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (Sullivan is also president of that organization).

"Why would I advise my client to pay even the requested small fine when the Commission has not and can not state the specific activity which it claims constitutes lobbying activity for which he legally needs to register?” Nixon said. "The offer to pay two $500 fines for general communication is indicative of the lack of evidence of a lawful need to register to lobby.”

In its proposed resolution, the Ethics Commission wrote that rejection of the settlement means that a formal hearing on the allegations will be scheduled at some point in the future.

An Ethics Commission spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

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