November 28, 2006
TEC reiterates its "no disclosure" ruling on cash gifts

The Texas Ethics Commission does what it does best, which is to say, "nothing".

A Texas official who receives any sum of cash as a gift can satisfy state disclosure laws by reporting the money simply as "currency," without specifying the amount, the Texas Ethics Commission reiterated Monday.

The 5-3 decision outraged watchdog groups and some officials who unabashedly accused the commission of failing to enforce state campaign finance laws.

"What the Ethics Commission has done is legalize bribery in the state of Texas. We call on the commission to resign en masse," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, who heads Texas Citizen, an Austin-based group that advocates for campaign finance reform.

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, said the "currency" interpretation would render it "perfectly legal to report the gift of 'a wheelbarrow' without reporting that the wheelbarrow was filled with cash."

The previous action taken was in September. As noted there and BOR, it's now up to the Lege to fix this little loophole. At least there appears to be the will to do that, with even Governor Perry signalling his support.

Why People Hate Lawyers, in a nutshell:

"The question here is whether the description of a gift of cash of over $250 is required to include the value of the gift," the Ethics Commission opinion said in part. "The term 'description' is not defined in Chapter 572 of the Government Code, nor is it defined anywhere else in the Government Code."

"In our opinion, the requirement to describe a gift of cash or cash equivalent may be satisfied by including in the description the following: 'currency,' or a description of the gift, such as 'check' or 'money order,' as appropriate," the ruling stated.

Who knew the word "description" could be so confusing? Maybe we should all chip in to buy a dictionary for all of the TEC members as a Christmas gift.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 28, 2006 to Scandalized! | TrackBack