Ethics Explorer A Guide to the Financial Interests of Elected Officials

Sen. Kirk Watson District 14 (D-Austin)

Industry
Lawyer
Education
B.A., Baylor University; J.D., Baylor University
Spouse
Liz
Committees
  • Select Committee on Government Facilities
  • Select Committee on State Real Property Data Collection, Reporting,
  • Finance
  • Health & Human Services
  • Higher Education
  • Nominations
Financial Statements

Sources of Income

  • Watson is an attorney who specializes in commercial litigation at Husch Blackwell, LLP, which merged with Brown McCarroll in 2013.

  • He is also a trustee of the Motors Liquidation Company Asbestos Personal Injury Trust and the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust. He is a managing trustee for the Federal-Mogul Asbestos Personal Injury Trust. He is also a director of the Claims Resolution Management Corporation, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust.

  • He is a board member for the Frontier Bank of Texas, Frontier Community Bancshares, Inc., and Downtown Austin Alliance. His wife, Liz, is a board member for the Austin Independent School System District Foundation.

  • He has business interests with Old Posse, Ltd. in Austin, Frontier Bank of Texas in Elgin, and Rust Oil Co. 1 (Elwanda) Partnership in Fort Worth.

Property

  • Residential property in Austin valued at $919,214

  • Residential property in Pitkin, Colo., valued at $201,400 (Watson and his wife own this property along with her family)

  • Mineral interests in a 341-acre property in Woodward County, Oklahoma, acquired from a family inheritance. Watson explained to the Tribune that he does not own the surface of the property.

  • Residential property in Taos, N.M. valued at $262,257

  • 188-acre ranch property in Gillespie County, valued at $430,710

Analysis

  • In past personal financial statements, Watson has not disclosed that he shares a business interest with a lobbyist, Curtis Fuelberg, in Frontier Bank. Watson told the Tribune that, under his interpretation of state disclosure rules, he was not required to report it. In his 2015 personal financial disclosure, Watson reported having a common business interest with lobbyists for the following entities: Husch Blackwell, LLP, Frontier Bank of Texas, and Frontier Community Bancshares, Inc. According to the San Antonio Express-News, Watson now voluntarily discloses this information out of caution and a recognition that the disclosure is “one of those things people would want to know.”

  • He helped lead a campaign to build a medical school in Austin along with Central Health, Travis County’s hospital district that had paid his firm Brown McCarroll LLP more than $260,000 since May of 2012 for legal work on the plan, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Watson rejected the idea that the relationship could present a conflict, and four ethics experts contacted by the newspaper found no wrongdoing. He later began pushing for a Travis County ballot initiative to implement a 5 cent tax increase on property tax payers to establish the Dell Medical School, also according to the Austin American-Statesman. When contacted by the Tribune, Watson maintained that his relationship between his firm and Central Health does not present a conflict of interest for him.

  • He has reported receiving vacation-related gifts from Ben Barnes, the former Texas House speaker and lieutenant governor turned lobbyist, and Steve Hicks, a University of Texas regent, according to filings. He also reported receiving passes to the ACL Fest from the event's promotor, C3 Presents; a campus parking pass from the University of Texas at Austin; tickets to a Baylor vs. Kansas State football game from Baylor University; a private flight to that game with other Baylor alumni from Paul Foster, a University of Texas System Board of Regents chairman and founder and executive chairman of Western Refining, Inc.; box tickets to a UT vs. Kansas game from Jim Edsel; and box tickets to the Cotton Bowl from lawyer Nelson Roach.

    Roach is an attorney with Nix, Patterson & Roach, which represented Texas in the state's litigation against the tobacco industry. The firm was also involved in a tax shelter scheme in 2014, according to a ruling from the 5th Circuit. Both Roach and the firm have contributed to Watson’s campaign. Watson told the Tribune that Nelson and he were old friends, but Watson did not know anything about the tax shelter scheme or Nelson’s involvement with it.

    Watson told the Tribune that Jim Edsel was his son’s father-in-law and the gift from Edsel was part of a vacation trip for his son.