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The Source: Does Texas' Government Have An Ethics Emergency?

austin_state_capitol.jpg
Ryan Poppe
/
Texas Public Radio

The message from one former chairman and now commissioner, for the Texas Ethics Commission is that the state has an ethics emergency.

Writing in a letter to current TEC Chairman Paul Hobby, Commissioner Jim Clancy pointed to the recent ruling by a Denton judge nullifying TEC fines against Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans as proof the TEC needs to shut down campaign finance and lobbying cases until the issue is resolved in the courts.

The TEC ruled Sullivan failed to register as a lobbyist while regularly advocating for positions to lawmakers. It also found that his advocacy group Empower Texans should have registered as a Political Action Committee. Sullivan's lawyers argued in court that the TEC rules violated the first amendment, and they won. The issue has been appealed to a higher court.

Many have lamented the toothless TEC. Clancy wants the TEC to have the same enforcement standard of review as other state agencies. 

Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to make ethics reform a priority this session, is this the shot in the arm the issue needs to see results?

Guests:

  • Ross Ramsey, Executive Editor of the Texas Tribune
  • Craig McDonald, Director of Texans for Public Justice, a left-leaning money-in-politics watchdog group
Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive