Texas Ethics Commission hammers two PACs/Treasurers with huge fines

Usually ethics complaints filed with the Texas Ethics Commission end in a slap on the wrist, a small fine, an attempt to correct reports, and a promise not to do it again. This latest release of sanctions is about as unusual as the fines against Eric Dick, City of Houston Candidate, who was fined $30,000 last year.

The Texas Ethics Commission issued massive fines against two PACs and treasurers in their recent published orders. The Treasurer of the African American Caucus, Darnella Wilkerson, has been fined $17,500 and Terrance Shanks of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats Harris County has been fined $27,500. Both must pay the fines within 30 days or will be referred to the Texas Attorney General for collections.

I could find very limited information about the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats Harris County on the TECs campaign finance report website and the African American Caucus is not registered with the TEC. The respondent for the Coalition claims the AAC is a part of the Coalition and therefore the complaints were handled together.

The orders, SC-32107157 and SC-32107163 have been posted to the TECs website. They are long, complicated and intertwined. If you take the time to read the reports the Staff of the TEC claim both respondents misled the commission during their investigation.

Here is a key finding against Darnella Wilkerson:

In consideration of the serious nature of the violations, the circumstantial indications that Wilkerson helped facilitate the still more serious violations in the related complaint against Shanks, and Wilkerson’s bad faith in her response to the complaint, the Commission imposes on Wilkerson civil penalties totaling $17,500: a $15,000 civil penalty for her reporting violations as treasurer of AAC, and an additional $2,500 civil penalty for her failure to respond to Commission staff’s written questions.

And another against Terrance Shanks:

Due to the seriousness of the violations, Shanks’s demonstrated bad faith (in committing the violations at issue, in his response to this sworn complaint, and in his unscrupulous evasion of TCBD-HC’s reporting responsibilities in general), and the need to deter future violations, the Commission imposes on Shanks civil penalties totaling $27,500: a $25,000 civil penalty for the reporting violations found in this Order, and an additional $2,500 civilpenalty for his failure to respond to Commission staff’s written questions.

One of the things you should never do is lie or mislead the Staff of the Ethics Commission. You shouldn’t claim your Treasurer has died when he is alive and well. You should never falsify your documents signed under oath. You should never ignore a request for document supporting your spending/donations. You should never ignore a subpoena or instruct others to ignore a subpoena.

Doing so will unusually end in a massive fine.

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