Wendy Davis Fined $5,000 for Ethics Violation

State Sen. Wendy Davis speaking to the press after a Travis County Democratic campaign rally on Oct. 22, 2014.
State Sen. Wendy Davis speaking to the press after a Travis County Democratic campaign rally on Oct. 22, 2014.

The Texas Ethics Commission has fined former state senator and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis $5,000 after finding "credible evidence" that she failed to include her relationship with two lobbyists on financial disclosure forms filed during her 2012 senate re-election campaign.

The commission issued an order detailing its findings and the fine on Thursday, nearly three years after a complaint was filed by Davis' Republican opponent, Mark Shelton, who narrowly lost the election to Davis by 2 percentage points. 

Shelton complained that Davis' personal financial documents for 2010 and 2011 did not properly indicate that her law partner, Brian Newby, was a registered lobbyist. The firm's unpaid executive director, Marcy Weldin Foster, was also a registered lobbyist in 2011, and that was not disclosed. The commission found Davis received fees for services from her own firm and another that she worked for "of counsel," Cantey Hanger, in 2010 and 2011. Both firms paid Newby as a lobbyist, and Cantey Hanger paid Foster as a lobbyist. 

As part of the agreement with the commission, Davis paid the fine but "neither admits nor denies" the agency's findings. A call for comment placed by The Texas Tribune to Davis was not immediately returned Friday. 

Davis pointed out to the commission that she didn't know Newby was a registered lobbyist when she filed her 2012 personal financial statement as required by the state to run for office. But the commission ruled that she could have easily obtained that information. 

Although Davis did list both Newby Davis and Cantey Hanger as sources of occupational income, she did not detail that she and a registered lobbyist had a common interest in a business, which violates campaign ethics law.

The issue of ethics dogged Davis during her failed 2014 bid for governor against Greg Abbott. The then-attorney general made her bond counsel work for public entities with interests before the Legislature a major campaign issue. 

Shelton, who waited years for the commission's finding, said he was pleased with the outcome.

"I think they finally came up with the right answer," he said. "We knew this would happen because there was no other conclusion that they could come up with."  

 

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