Texas Supreme Court Justice Paul Green said Tuesday that he would try to locate records showing that 272 trips he made between the court and San Antonio over the past three years were for purposes allowed under state ethics laws.
"I want all this to be open and transparent," said Green.
Green responded to a complaint filed Tuesday with the Texas Ethics Commission alleging that he used political contributions illegally to travel to and from his home in San Antonio. A 1993 advisory commission from the commission said appellate judges cannot use their political funds to commute between their hometowns and the city where the court sits.
Campaign finance reports filed with the ethics commission show that Green paid himself $16,761 for mileage reimbursements. Green said the trips were for meetings and speaking engagements.
Green, who owns a home in San Antonio with his ex-wife, said he has had an apartment in Austin since March 2005 and does not commute from San Antonio.
The head of the group that filed the complaint said he would like to see Green's records. "If it turns out he can document these trips as being for legitimate political purposes, we are more than happy to pull our complaint down," said Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch.
UPDATE: Missed this story about Justice Green's colleague in campaign finance troubles:
Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht said Wednesday he charged his campaign account for frequent flights to Dallas but that he was working and meeting with supporters during those visits.
Hecht denied that he was commuting to Austin from Carrollton, a Dallas suburb where he owns a home. He said he lives in Austin, where he considers a home he has owned for 20 years his primary residence.
"I'm allowed to fly up there for officeholder and campaign purposes," said Hecht. "Those were some of my purposes as well as to see friends, build support."
Hecht spent nearly $10,000 from his campaign funds on in-state flights last year, according to reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. That was more than any other justice on the nine-member court.
Texas Watch, a watchdog group, plans to file a complaint today at the Ethics Commission concerning Hecht's travel.
Hecht is the third member of the high court to come under scrutiny in the past week for alleged improper use of political donations.
Complaints filed by Texas Watch last year against Hecht led to investigations by the Ethics Commission and Travis County prosecutors. Those probes, which are pending, concern a discount Hecht received for personal legal services from the Jackson Walker law firm.
Hecht is accused of failing to report the lowered fees as an in-kind political contribution and that the discount exceeded the $30,000 limit on judicial donations from a law firm. The legal fees stem from Jackson Walker's successful defense of Hecht in a dispute with the Commission on Judicial Conduct over Hecht's promotion of his longtime friend Harriet Miers' short-lived nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005.
One last thing:
Justice Dale Wainwright, who faces Democrat Baltasar Cruz in November, spent more than $7,000 on in-state flights last year. But Winslow said there is no issue of a commute concerning Wainwright because the jurist doesn't own a home outside Austin.