February 19, 2015 •

Texas Governor Wants Ethics Reform

On February 17, in his state of the state address, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott emphasized his desire for ethics reform legislation. Included in his proposals are requirements for more detailed disclosure concerning campaign finance, disclosure of elected officials’ contracts with […]

TexasOn February 17, in his state of the state address, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott emphasized his desire for ethics reform legislation. Included in his proposals are requirements for more detailed disclosure concerning campaign finance, disclosure of elected officials’ contracts with public entities, and a prohibition of lawmakers voting on “legislation from which they could profit.”

Abbott challenged the legislature by stating, “The most important commodity we have as elected officials is the bond we share with our constituents. Transparency – and rising above even the appearance of impropriety – will strengthen that bond. Rejection of ethics reform will weaken that bond and rightfully raise suspicions about who we truly serve – ourselves, or the people of Texas.”

The governor’s entire address can be seen here:

 

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January 12, 2015 •

Houston Ordinance Curtailing Political Contributions Preliminarily Blocked

On January 9, 2015, a federal court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the city of Houston  from enforcing its ordinance prohibiting political contributions until the first day of February prior to the day of an election. In Gordon v. City […]

Flag of Houston, TexasOn January 9, 2015, a federal court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the city of Houston  from enforcing its ordinance prohibiting political contributions until the first day of February prior to the day of an election.

In Gordon v. City of Houston, the United States District Court for The Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, found the city did not present any evidence showing the ordinance advanced the city’s interest of preventing the appearance of corruption. The plaintiff argued the ordinance “stifles core political activity and prevents candidates from raising funds to run effective campaigns, yet it does not further the only legitimate governmental interest relevant in this area, i.e., the prevention of corruption or its appearance.”

Because this is a preliminary injunction, the court found the public interest would not be “disserved” by its issuance, concluding, “Any harm caused to defendants by issuing the injunction does not outweigh the more serious harm that will be suffered by Gordon if the challenged ordinance is enforced against him.”

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August 25, 2014 •

TX Ethics Commission Issues Advisory Opinions and Proposed Rule Changes

On August 21, the Texas Ethics Commission issued two advisory opinions and a proposed rule amendment. Advisory Opinion 519 holds a state candidate is not prohibited from accepting an in-kind political contribution from an out-of-state political committee. The contribution to […]

Texas Capitol RotundaOn August 21, the Texas Ethics Commission issued two advisory opinions and a proposed rule amendment.

Advisory Opinion 519 holds a state candidate is not prohibited from accepting an in-kind political contribution from an out-of-state political committee. The contribution to a candidate is allowed if made from a permissible source and the candidate properly complies with the applicable disclosure requirements.

In Advisory Opinion 518, the commission upheld that a group is not a political committee if not accepting or intending to accept political contributions and not using or intending to use more than 20 percent of its funds and other resources to make political expenditures.

The Ethics Commission also voted to propose a rule change by defining “principal purpose” in relation to a group making political contributions and expenditures. While a group can have more than one principal purpose, the definition would create a threshold triggering the disclosure of political contributions and expenditures. The commission also proposed other rule changes. The proposed rules are currently open for comment.

Photo of the Texas Capitol Rotunda dome interior by Ed Uthman on Wikimedia Commons.

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August 13, 2014 •

Texas PAC Restriction Struck Down as Unconstitutional

On August 12, 2014, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a state law restricting expenditures by certain political committees. The law prevented a general-purpose committee from making political expenditures of more than $500 until a treasurer appointment […]

US-CourtOfAppeals-5thCircuit-SealOn August 12, 2014, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a state law restricting expenditures by certain political committees.

The law prevented a general-purpose committee from making political expenditures of more than $500 until a treasurer appointment had been on file with the Ethics Commission for at least 60 days and contributions had been accepted from at least 10 persons.

The same restriction did not apply to specific-purpose committees. The court held the restriction to be an unconstitutional burden on free speech.

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July 22, 2014 •

Special Election Announced for Texas State Senate District 28 Seat

Today Texas Gov. Perry announced a special election will be held September 9, 2014, for the State Senate District 28 seat. State Sen. Robert Duncan resigned on July 3, 2014, in order to serve as chancellor of the Texas Tech […]

TexasToday Texas Gov. Perry announced a special election will be held September 9, 2014, for the State Senate District 28 seat.

State Sen. Robert Duncan resigned on July 3, 2014, in order to serve as chancellor of the Texas Tech University System. The winner of the election will serve out the unexpired term of Duncan, which expires in 2017.

Duncan has served in both the state House and the Senate since 1993.

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May 30, 2014 •

Texas Ethics Commission Picks Natalia Luna Ashley as Executive Director

On May 29, Natalia Luna Ashley was named the new executive director by the Texas Ethics Commission. Ashley had been serving both as its interim executive director and its special counsel. She has also held the positions of assistant general […]

Texas Capitol Rotunda Dome InteriorOn May 29, Natalia Luna Ashley was named the new executive director by the Texas Ethics Commission. Ashley had been serving both as its interim executive director and its special counsel. She has also held the positions of assistant general counsel and assistant director of enforcement with the commission.

Photo of the Texas State Capitol Dome courtesy of Ed Uthman on Wikimedia Commons.

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March 12, 2014 •

Texas Rule Regarding Independent Expenditure-Only Committees Effective Today

A new Texas Ethics Commission Rule regarding contributions to direct campaign expenditure-only committees became effective today. Texas Ethics Commission Rule §22.5 requires a political committee intending to act exclusively as a direct campaign expenditure-only committee to file an affidavit with […]

Texas

A new Texas Ethics Commission Rule regarding contributions to direct campaign expenditure-only committees became effective today.

Texas Ethics Commission Rule §22.5 requires a political committee intending to act exclusively as a direct campaign expenditure-only committee to file an affidavit with the Texas Ethics Commission stating the committee intends to act exclusively as a direct campaign expenditure-only committee and will not use its contributions made to it to make political contributions to any candidate for elective office, any officeholder, or any political committee making a political contribution to a candidate or officeholder.

The new rule requires the committee file the statement before it can accept a political contribution from corporations or labor organizations.

 

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March 7, 2014 •

One Week Remains for Tarrant County Elections Administrator

Steve Raborn, the Tarrant County, Texas Elections Administrator since 2006, will be leaving office on March 14. Raborn will next be working for Votec Corporation, a private company dealing with public election-related products and services. According to the Fort Worth […]

Tarrant_County

Steve Raborn, the Tarrant County, Texas Elections Administrator since 2006, will be leaving office on March 14. Raborn will next be working for Votec Corporation, a private company dealing with public election-related products and services. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Tarrant County Elections Commission intends to hire Raborn’s replacement before he leaves office.

 

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February 19, 2014 •

TX Ethics Advisory Opinion Offers Guidance on Registration Disclosure of Certain Compensation

  On February 13, the Texas Ethics Commission issued an advisory opinion concerning the requirements of lobbyists to disclose office holders or candidates compensating or reimbursing the lobbyist for services from political contributions. In Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 515, the […]

Texas

 

On February 13, the Texas Ethics Commission issued an advisory opinion concerning the requirements of lobbyists to disclose office holders or candidates compensating or reimbursing the lobbyist for services from political contributions.

In Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 515, the commission held that while a lobbyist must disclose in a registration the full name and address of a candidate or officeholder who uses political contributions to compensate or reimburse the lobbyist, he or she is not required to disclose compensation or reimbursement received by an entity for services rendered by someone other than the lobbyist or a person acting as an agent of the lobbyist.

Lobbyists must disclose the full name and address of a candidate or officeholder who uses political contributions to compensate or reimburse an entity that employs or hires the lobbyist to render services for the candidate or officeholder.

 

 

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January 17, 2014 •

Houston, Texas Wage Theft Ordinance Takes Effect

On January 19, 2014, the city’s Wage Theft Ordinance takes effect. The ordinance prohibits contracts with the city for vendors convicted of wage theft, assessed an administrative penalty involving wage theft, or adjudicated in a civil action of engaging in […]

Houston skyline

On January 19, 2014, the city’s Wage Theft Ordinance takes effect. The ordinance prohibits contracts with the city for vendors convicted of wage theft, assessed an administrative penalty involving wage theft, or adjudicated in a civil action of engaging in wage theft. The prohibition applies to entering, continuing, or extending contracts with the city. City contractors are prohibited from retaliating against any person filing a wage theft complaint in good faith.

Photo of the Houston skyline courtesy of Hequals2henry on Wikimedia Commons.

 

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November 26, 2013 •

Texas Political Committee Treasurer Rule Takes Effect Today

A Texas Ethics Commission rule delineating the state’s document retention policy for treasurers of political committees takes effect today. Rule §20.18, which was adopted on October 31, 2013, spells out the records needed to be kept for at least two […]

TexasA Texas Ethics Commission rule delineating the state’s document retention policy for treasurers of political committees takes effect today.

Rule §20.18, which was adopted on October 31, 2013, spells out the records needed to be kept for at least two years. The rule also outlines what documentation and actions are needed by a treasurer in order to remain in compliance with the state’s retention law.

Two other rules passed by the commission dealing with the reporting of contribution pledges and political expenditure disclosures take effect on January 1, 2015.

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November 18, 2013 •

Attorney General Running for Texas Governor Makes Ethics Proposals

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has proposed increasing the frequency of reporting campaign finance data and imposing a reporting requirement before spending for certain campaign contributions. Abbott, a candidate for governor, announced his intentions for these and other ethics reforms […]

TexasTexas Attorney General Greg Abbott has proposed increasing the frequency of reporting campaign finance data and imposing a reporting requirement before spending for certain campaign contributions. Abbott, a candidate for governor, announced his intentions for these and other ethics reforms while campaigning, according to KHOU.com.

One proposal requires that no funds received above $5,000 within the last 30 days before an election be expended by a campaign or PAC until those funds have been reported to the Texas Ethics Commission and posted on the campaign or PAC website.

Other recommendations include requiring quarterly campaign finance reporting as opposed to semi-annually reporting and requiring public officials to disclose any state or local public contracts or paid relationships held by the official or his or her spouse.

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November 5, 2013 •

Texas Ethics Commission Guidance: Independent Expenditure-Only PACs

On November 4, in response to a court decision enjoining the Texas Ethics Commission from enforcing parts of the Election Code, the Ethics Commission released guidance concerning independent expenditure-only PACs. The commission acknowledged restrictions on independent expenditures from independent expenditure-only […]

TexasOn November 4, in response to a court decision enjoining the Texas Ethics Commission from enforcing parts of the Election Code, the Ethics Commission released guidance concerning independent expenditure-only PACs.

The commission acknowledged restrictions on independent expenditures from independent expenditure-only PACs, referred to in the state as “direct campaign expenditure only committees,” are currently unenforceable under the October 16, 2013, ruling in Texans for Free Enterprise v. Texas Ethics Commission.

The commission requires independent expenditure-only PACs submit a sworn statement stating the committee intends to act exclusively as a direct campaign expenditure only committee in accordance with Texans for Free Enterprise and the committee will not use its funds to make contributions to candidates for elective office, officeholders, or political committees supporting or opposing candidates or assisting officeholders.

The commission also made available sample template political committees may use to submit their sworn statements

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August 26, 2013 •

Texas Special Election to Be Held for House District No. 50

November 5, 2013

TexasA special election will be held November 5, 2013, for the Texas State House of Representatives District No. 50 seat.

State Rep. Mark Strama announced his resignation on June 26, 2013, in order to work for Google Fiber. The winner of the election will serve out the unexpired term of Strama, who was last elected to the seat on May 29, 2012.

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