The vast majority of ethics complaints filed with the Texas Ethics Commission end with a slap on the wrist, a promise not to violate the law again, and a small fine. Then there are the fines against Matt Armstrong.
Matt Armstrong is/was the treasurer of a couple of GPACs in Flower Mound Texas. He is a political consultant for “conservative” candidates. He recently resigned as chief administrator for Denton County Precinct 1 Commissioner Ryan Williams. He has been the center of controversy according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.
He had 3 complaints filed against him in 2022 and the Ethics Commission has ruled and posted the sanctions on their website today. It’s not pretty. The TEC fined Armstrong $10,000, $15,000, and $12,500 for a total of $37,500. That fine is the 2nd highest fine in the history of the TEC with a $75,000 fine issued against Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole many years ago. Early in 2022 the TEC fined Eric Dick, candidate for Houston City Council $30,000 and referred him to the Texas Bar.
The final orders are a bit long and complicated but there seems to be a pattern to the results of the investigation. According to one of the complaints:
The pattern of behavior shows a deliberate effort by the respondent to evade disclosure and mislead the public. The respondent also ignored the Commission by failing to timely respond to the complaint and failing to participate in the preliminary review hearing.
I believe one of the worst things you can do when a complaint has been filed with the TEC is to lie, mislead, and/or ignore the requests by the TEC staff. It’s best to just pony up to the bar, admit you made a mistake, take a fine, and move on. After reading the complaints against Armstrong it seems like he didn’t do that.
Note to treasurers: Don’t mess with the Texas Ethics Commission.