Better to keep your hopes down and not suffer too much disappointment.
Gov. Greg Abbott pledged on the campaign trail to lead the charge to improve the state’s ethics laws, and now lawmakers and advocates pushing for reform are looking to the newly elected governor to help breathe life into proposals at the Legislature.
Lawmakers of both parties at the state Capitol talk a big game when it comes to strengthening laws aimed at rooting out corruption or providing more transparency to the public. That mostly has amounted to lip service, advocates of open government say, as substantive ethics reform has continually been curbed.
This session, efforts again will include attempts to require disclosure of contracts elected officials and their families have with the public sector, to make lawmakers’ personal financial statements available online, and to slow down the revolving door of lawmakers leaving office and immediately becoming lobbyists. All have failed previously.
There also are plans to propose legislation addressing secret campaign donors.
And a package of ethics measures Abbott laid out on the campaign trail, from putting more teeth into conflicts-of-interest statutes to beefing up campaign finance reporting requirements, are expected to get serious attention this session.
“Gov. Abbott made this a large part of his campaign for a good reason,” said state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, a second-term Republican from Southlake. “People are afraid that somehow we’re working on things that could enrich other politicians.”
Tom “Smitty” Smith of watchdog group Public Citizen Texas said he remains cynical about what actually will come to fruition, noting Abbott’s plan did not include any mention of so-called “dark money” – political contributions in which the donor is not disclosed.
“Abbott has clearly signaled he wants to do some sort of ethics reform,” Smith said. “It’s more of a matter of, what is a reform?”
Bet the under, that’s my advice. It’s not even all on Abbott, to be honest, but more about the MQS mafia. Of course, they’re big backers of Abbott, who I expect will be honest enough to stay bought. Even if some form of ethics reform gets through, kneecapping the Public Integrity Unit and trimming funds for the Texas Ethics Commission will ensure that any new rules will be largely unenforceable anyway. So stay pessimistic, but hope for the best.