House critics: Where’s the ethics reform?

Greg Abbott
Photo: Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Although Texas ranks among the bottom of the barrel for ethics laws and Gov. Greg Abbott has claimed major ethics reform as a priority, substantive legislation hasn’t been pushed by the governor during the special session.

That has irked some lawmakers, including Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), chairwoman of the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics, who joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers on that committee Wednesday in calling for more serious reform.

One loophole they hope to close is one that may benefit Abbott. While lawmakers cannot seek contributions from people that might receive a positive benefit from legislation during the regular session, no such prohibition exists during special sessions.

While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus have pledged not to raise funds during the special session this summer, Abbott has continued email solicitations.

One of the lawmakers who prodded Abbott at the press conference, Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio), is pushing legislation to tamp down what he called a “pay for play” system in the governor’s office. Larson’s bill would make contributors who give $2,500 to the governor ineligible to be appointed to state boards and commissions.

He said over the years those donors who give heartily to governors and fattened the campaign coffers have tended to receive the best appointments.

“I think it’s imperative that if we control both the legislative and the executive branch of government that we should reform the most egregious ethics violations we’ve got in the state, and that’s where people have to pay large sums of money to get appointed to highly coveted seats,” Larson said.

Texas earned a D-minus grade from The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in its 2015 state integrity investigation, ranking it 39th of the 50 states. That included grades of F in the accountability categories for the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

The Texas Monitor recently ran a series of stories examining some of the more egregious expenses by state lawmakers out of their campaign accounts in a state that doesn’t limit how much donors can give to legislators.

CPI swiped at the Lone Star State after the legislature only passed scant ethics reform after Abbott’s first State of the State address in 2015 calling for major changes.

“The paltry body of work on one of the governor’s top priorities enhanced the state’s reputation as a place where — at least in the eyes of watchdog groups — lip service on ethics trumps actual results,” David Montgomery wrote for CPI.

Abbott spokesman John Wittman blasted Wednesday’s press conference in a written statement published by the Texas Tribune.

“Instead of working to advance items on the special session agenda that could reform property taxes, fix school finance, increase teacher pay and reduce regulations, Reps. Davis and Larson are showboating over proposals that are not on the Governor’s call,” Wittman wrote. “Their constituents deserve better.”

Public Citizen, a national nonprofit consumer advocacy group with an office in Austin, said that with two weeks to go in the special session it’s time for Abbott to press harder on the issue of ethics reform.

“During the regular session, the governor again proved himself to be all hat and no cattle when it comes to ethics reform,” said Public Citizen legislative counsel Carol Birch. “Since the legislature is back in the saddle at his request, he should go ahead and bring the whole herd.”


    • 95% of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Evangelical Christians. 1% were Roman Catholic. and less than 4% were Unitarian.

      96% of the signers of the US Constitution were Evangelical Christians. Less. 1.9% were Roman Catholic and 1.9% were Unitiarian.

      I guess there were too many Bible Thumpers in the Continental Congress and at the Constitutional Convention too???

    • I don’t believe those statistics. What are your sources for them? BTW, by “Bible Thumper”, I don’t mean all Christians. I’m referring to those who try to make their religion the law of the land.

    • Don Johnson – Believe them or not, they are accurate… regardless of wheather you believe them. Do you have any referece to dispute it other than you own opinion???

      Remember, the Founding Fathers and the American Colonist who fought the Revolution and formed the constitution were the products of the First Great Awakening. Just a cursuory knowlede of American History will prove that at worst, the stats quoted are not very far off, if off at all.

      Lastly, nobody (of any political significance anyway), not the Founding Fathers, not modern Evangelicals are trying to install a Theocracy. Most Evangelicals would believe the Bible and Christian History would argue against a Theocracy.

      “Our Constitution was written for a religious and moral people. It is totally inadequate for the governing of any other.” – John Adams

      “…Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

      ’Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free Government. Who that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric.”
      – from President George Washington’s Farwell Address to the nation.

    • By the way… defending the life of innocent unborn children is not a religous act… it is defending LIFE…. which is a core founding belief of our nation.

      And defending the traditional definition of marriage is also not limited to Theocracies… it has been a part of the role of government for most of the history of mankind, regardless of geography or religion.

      And defending one’s free exercise of religion is guaranteed in the First Amendment.

      To call that creating a Theocracy is just non-sense. And since the SCOTUS has declared Athiesm and Darwinism as a form of religion, then wouldn’t forcing an a-theistic view or darwinism down the throats of our school children be an establishment of religion if you are using the definition of “establishment of religion” as how the atheistic left defines it???

      Personally, I don’t have a problem with Darwinism being taught, as long as it is fairly taught with all its flaws and that Creationism is also taught along side it. Teach the children how to think for themselvs… and I guarantee the majority of them will reject the ludicriousness of Darwinism and athiesm. But at least give them the ability and freedom to think for themselves….which is just the opposite of what leftist want.


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