September 24, 2006
No action on cash gifts

From Friday, the toothless Texas Ethics Commission took a pass on ruling whether or not bags of cash given as gifts to state officials need to be fully disclosed.

Seven of the eight commissioners present at their regular meeting agreed to postpone the decision until December so they can further examine the issue.

A groundswell of opposition has emerged in the days since the commission released an advisory opinion indicating state law does not require the disclosure of gift amounts; a suitcase full of cash could be described merely as "cash;" an envelope full of checks could be described merely as "checks."

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle called the opinion "absurd" in a letter to the commission and said "a gift of cash, check or other currency simply cannot be adequately described without giving the amount of the gift."

At least two state lawmakers, Rep. Fred Hill, R-Richardson, and Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, have vowed to file bills requiring precise reporting.

Gov. Rick Perry said this week that he would support such legislation.

When Rick freaking Perry thinks you're interpreting the ethics rules too broadly, you know you've gone too far.

Specific criticism by Texans for Public Justice and Common Cause of the original TEC draft ruling is here (PDF). Note that the TEC does have policymaking responsibilities, and that the word "value" does appear in the disputed statute. The problem here is one of fecklessness, not clarity.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 24, 2006 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

You can repeat it all you want, but it's still just not true. The two other sections require reporting "a description and value of each gift". The section in question requires "a description of each gift.' This was done deliberately to run expressly contrary and thus produce a different result. No one at the time or since has explained the reasoning, but Council drafters will tell you that they kept reinserting the "and value" language and lawmakers repeatedly striked it.

Posted by: jim on September 24, 2006 6:15 PM