State Rep. Lon Burnam, et al, Go After The Ethics Commission

Posted in Around The State at 2:21 pm by wcnews

Here’s the text of their press release:


This statement is made by the following individuals and organizations:

State Representative Lon Burnam, District 90
Attorney Randall Buck Wood, Ray, Wood, & Bonilla
Common Cause
League of Women Voters
Public Citizen
Texans for Public Justice

“Since its creation in 1991, the Texas Ethics Commission had functioned as intended by its framers. The legislature left no doubt as to the intent of the law and how the statute was to be interpreted. (Attached is the relevant statutory language).

“Recently, however, a majority of the Commission has rejected the purpose of the law and seems bent on allowing public officials to hide conflicts of interest whenever possible.

“The most recent and outrageous example is the Commission’s refusal to overturn a staff position that no meaningful disclosure need be made of gifts to public officials. This occurred in the recent situation where a public official was allowed to not report a gift of checks totaling $100,000. The official was allowed by the staff to describe this $100,000 gift as a “check.”

“The only reason that the voters now know that the gift totaled $100,000 is because of the public outcry by voters, officeholders and the media of this obvious miscarriage of the law. The Commission was requested to issue a rule requiring a full description of such gifts but this request was refused.

“A lawsuit was filed in an effort to clarify the law and get it enforced so the voters could know if their public officials were taking money from persons or corporations which could influence their conduct. The Judge refused to allow the suit to proceed citing the fact that the Commission had not been asked for an opinion on this question.

“The Court was correct in that the Commission has never issued an official opinion on how to correctly report and describe a gift of money to a public official.

“The staff’s position would allow gifts of money of hundreds of thousands of dollars to our public officials to be described as an “envelope containing paper.” If this is the Commission’s position, then we need a new Commission.

“The Commission must carry out its duties to interpret the law so that voters can know who is giving money to their public officials. Otherwise, neither voters nor the law enforcement can know if their officeholders are being bribed.

“An official opinion is being requested of the Ethics Commission as to whether a gift of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more can be reported as a “check” or “piece of paper” or whether the description of the money must give the voters and the media fair notice of whether the magnitude of the money gift could influence the activities of such officials.”

Here are the links to the Relevant Statuatory Language and here’s what former state Sen. Bill Ratliff, who was on the Conference Committee back when the Ethics Commission was created, says about this.

1 Comment »

  1. Capitol Annex » From The Blogs: Thursday, July 13, 2006 said,

    July 13, 2006 at 11:31 am

    […] Eye on Williamson tells us about Lon Burnam going after the Texas Ethics Commission. […]

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