260 candidates haven’t paid Texas Ethics Commission fines

TEC fines

More than 260 candidates owe the state of Texas $1.1 million in fines for failing to file legally required campaign finance reports. Loopholes in enforcement make it difficult to collect the fines or punish the delinquents.

An investigation by KXAN-TV in Austin of the Texas Ethics Commission’s Delinquent Filer List and other public records going back to 2005 found another 174 candidates have run up $114,500 in fines for failing to file a legally required Personal Financial Statement. The investigation found 74 lobbyists who owe a total of $74,500 in fines for failing to file required disclosure documents with the state.

State Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, who is running for reelection while he appeals a criminal conviction, is the current king of unfiled campaign reports, currently owing the state $52,000 in fines, as The Texas Monitor recently reported.

According to the Commission’s current list, the others in the top five are: Joe Foster Jr., a candidate for district judge in Alpine who owes $30,500; Christopher Christal, a candidate for state Senate from San Antonio who owes $22,500; Jesus Mendoza, a candidate for state representative from Lewisville who owes $22,500; and Wesley Shane Nelson, a candidate for state representative from Grand Prairie who owes $21,500.

The investigation found nothing in the law requiring the Ethics Commission to pursue delinquent campaign finance reports with a local prosecutor or the state Attorney General. And while the law requires the commission to do so with a failure to file the personal financial statements, commission records made it “impossible” to determine to what degree it was in compliance.

The commission had no enforcement director until 2015.

“We don’t know the referral rate,” Ethics Commission chairman Steve Wolens told KXAN. Citing “holes” in the commission’s internal recordkeeping, Wolens said there was no way to know between 2005 and 2013 who the TEC was supposed to have referred to prosecutors, or if the commission ever did. “We can’t figure it out.”

State records collected by KXAN show the Ethics Commission has referred some of the delinquencies to the AG’s office, not for prosecution but for collection of campaign finance reporting and other ethics violation fines.

From the beginning of 2013 and the end of 2017, the Ethics Commission submitted $1.2 million in fines for collection, of which the AG collected just less than $300,000, or about 24 percent of the total, according to the investigation.

Between 2013-2016, the Ethics Commission asked the Travis County Attorney’s office to prosecute 26 people for failing to file campaign forms. Of the 10 criminal charges brought, eight cases were dismissed and two are pending, according to the investigation.

On Jan. 28, according to records, the Ethics Commission referred three more candidates and two lobbyists to the county attorney for prosecution.

Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected]


  1. How many in the legislature and Congress haven’t paid their income taxes? A report a few years ago was staggering. In the Dumpf era, I’m sure it is even worse.

  2. Great story. My name happens to be on that list and it is published on the Texas Ethics Commission website. I owe $13,200 plus interest. I ran for the Texas House of Representatives District 4 seat in 2014 on the Libertarian Party Ticket. That was the first time I ever ran for office and it was a learning experience to say the least. I filed two Campaign Finance Reports late because I didn’t know I was required to file and I just didn’t file the Personal Finance Report and don’t have an excuse other than I had nothing to report really. I am not trying to make excuses and really the way I see it the only person that had a right to file a complaint was the candidate I was running against and with him taking 89% of the vote I don’t think he had a problem it. I ran a ZERO dollar campaign meaning I raised no money and spent no money. I used social media and a couple of events that I participated in to campaign. I wasn’t looking for people’s money, I just wanted their vote. So running for office and raising no money I was sued in civil court by the State of Texas (Governor Abbott was the AG) because I didn’t turn in some papers and was late turning in one paper. The state won a default judgement against me because I couldn’t afford an attorney and didn’t go to Austin for the court date. Shortly, there after I received a summons for a criminal court case in Austin. I was being charged with a class A misdemeanor, which the punishment for that could be up to 1 year in jail and or up to a $4,000 fine. This being a criminal case I had to appear in court which I did and I was assigned a court appointed attorney and returned home. I talked to my attorney a couple of times and didn’t hear anything else for about a year later. My attorney called one day and told me they would dismiss the case if I just filed the Personal Finance Report which I did and the case has been dismissed. I still owe the $13,200 and my name is still on the Delinquent Filer List. https://www.ethics.state.tx.us/dfs/delinquent/coh/ I am a disabled veteran and get a monthly check that allows me to barely get by each month and there are some months I come up short and I have to decide who has to wait until next month. I haven’t ran for political office again and didn’t think I could being on the “list”. I did find out the system has many problems. The biggest problem I have found is with campaign finances. I don’t know about you but, if a single donor contributed $50,000 to my campaign I would have to wonder what was going to be expected from me, heck anything over $1,000 would make me uncomfortable. I have really spent some time looking at the Campaign Finance Reports of some of the candidates running this year. It is amazing at the amount some of these candidates are raising from PACS, out of state, out of district contributors and single contributor’s. I am also shocked at the amounts and what these candidates are spending their funds on. Paid volunteers, office workers, vehicle maintenance, private flights, rent for Austin apartments (all year not just while in session) utilities for apt. cell phones, internet, gifts and the biggest amount goes to consultants. I had saw where Gov. Rick Perry failed to report a couple of $50,000 rentals on his PFR and he was fined $1,500 which I am sure he used campaign funds to cover that. Governor Abbott has a “war chest” of about $43 million dollars according to one report I found which is actually a Political Committee and not on his CFR. His CFR shows Zeros. This information is available to the public on the TEC website which is not the easiest program to use and the way the reports are done it is hard to follow. The TEC has been under fire for several issues. There are some candidates at the county and city levels that file their reports with the county and it makes it hard to get those reports. I think we should be doing more stories on campaign finances. Look at the amount of money they make for being elected and meeting for a couple of months every other year and the amount they raise and spend for their seat. A regular person should not be sued and fined $13,200 when they neither raised nor spent any money on their campaign and the candidate that they ran against didn’t complain. Another issue I found is in 2014 the Republican and Democrat candidates for TX Governor were invited to a debate at the Dallas PBS, channel 13 KERA, studios but they would not allow the Libertarian Party candidate who was on the Nov. Ballot. If anyone wants to know more about my story I will be happy to answer them.

    • Frederick, I filed a complaint against a person who filed a report late and she was well aware of the deadline because she had been penalized by the Texas Ethics Commission prior, and they didn’t assess a penalty on her for the delinquent report she filed. Instead she and the The Ethics Commission entered into an agreement of Assurance of Voluntary Compliance this month and no fees were assessed.


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