State Sen. Joan Huffman, who tried to shield the spouses of elected officials from ethics disclosure rules, has now revealed a slew of business interests held by her husband.
The Houston Republican's new personal financial statement, received by the Texas Ethics Commission last week, expanded to 27 pages for calendar year 2014, up from 12 the year before. The statement lists stock holdings in 48 business entities, up from just one in 2013, according to commission records.
A big chunk of the new business interests in her latest report pertains to bars and nightclubs owned or held by her husband, Keith Lawyer. But Huffman and her husband also reveal new oil and gas holdings, real estate interests and stock in prominent or publicly traded corporations such as Apple Inc., Kinder Morgan Inc. and Energy Transfer Equity LP, the pipeline company chaired by Texas billionaire and mega-donor Kelcy Warren.
Huffman listed no gifts for 2013. In 2014, she reports three: transportation, food and lodging in Taiwan from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston, for her husband and dependent child; a family trip to Colorado from Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp and his wife, Charlotte; and a family trip to Colorado from Morgan Land & Cattle Partners LTD of Dolores, Colorado.
Calls to Huffman’s Capitol and district offices, along with an email message sent to Huffman’s public address, were not immediately returned Monday afternoon.
Huffman authored the controversial “spousal loophole” amendments that landed in two separate bills at the end of the recently concluded session. It would have allowed elected officials and major state bureaucrats to keep secret much or all of the financial activities and holdings of their spouses.
The sponsor of the ethics bills that included the provision wound up asking Gov. Greg Abbott to veto the legislation. And that’s what he did on June 20, saying in his veto proclamation that he would not take part in “weakening our ethics laws” and vowing to try again for meaningful reforms in the next regular session in 2017.
Days after the session ended, a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee filed a sworn ethics complaint against Huffman, alleging the senator had not adhered to ethics rules that require certain spousal assets to be revealed on ethics disclosures.
Huffman has said she always follows ethics laws to the letter and defended her support of the spousal exemption amendment. She said she pushed the amendment to rein in an ethics commission rule that went beyond what the law requires.
But Democratic strategist Matt Angle said the filing demonstrates that Huffman’s previous reports violated disclosure laws.
“Clearly, Joan Huffman was illegally hiding assets held by her husband. She tried to enact a loophole to continue the deception,” Angle said. “With the Huffman loophole now closed, she is being forced to acknowledge her violations. Joan Huffman has forfeited any benefit of doubt so hopefully a thorough (Texas Ethics Commission) investigation will take place and could well expose other violations.”