Blast from the past: The Texas Ethics Commission

Back in 2009 KHOU did a story about the research a few activists performed concerning how elected officials spent their donors money, specifically hiding expenses behind a credit card. You can watch it here.

NOTE: In this story I made some comments about the Texas Ethics Commission which I do not agree with today. I have gained a much better respect for the Commission, especially the staff, and appreciate what they do.

In 2009 a small group of us looked at every State Representative and State Senator expenditure reports, about 180 of them. We found many were hiding purchases behind credit cards. The rules of the Ethics Commission are clear, report who gave you money and what you bought using their money. We found elected officials spending their donors money on personal items hidden behind a credit card. Converting campaign donations to personal use is against the law. It’s called “stealing”. We eventually filed about 60 ethics complaints with only 2 rejected.

Of the 58 accepted by the Commission, one resulted in the largest fine in the history of the Commission, $75,000. Many resulted in fines and requirements that the official return the money they stole from their donors. The Commission also required a new form to be filled out to identify every purchase made with a credit card. I hope this new form requirement was based upon the research we performed.

We eventually published a report called Don’t Mess With Ethics documenting what we had found. You can read that report here. Enjoy!

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