The Woodlands, TX (Montgomery County Monitor) – On January 31, 2008, the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) received a sworn complaint dated January 27, 2008 from Montgomery County, TX resident, Bob Bagley. The complaint alleged Texas State Senator, Tommy Williams, “failed to disclose the political committee ‘Texans for Tommy Williams’…” which both collects and spends campaign contributions on behalf of the senator. According to the complaint, during an approximate two year period, “Texans for Tommy Williams” collected over $500,000 on behalf of the senator. Over the same period of time, the complaint claims, Texans for Tommy Williams spent over $370,000 on behalf of the senator.
The complaint alleges Mr. Williams did not disclose the existence of the political action committee (PAC), “Texans for Tommy Williams”, in his campaign finance reports. Failure to do so can be a violation of Section 254.091 of the Election Code.
A related statute, Section 254.128(a) states, “if a specific-purpose committee accepts political contributions or makes political expenditures for a candidate or officeholder, the committee’s campaign treasurer shall deliver written notice of that fact to the affected candidate or officeholder not later than the end of the period covered by the report in which the reportable activity occurs.”
Reviewing the on-line campaign finance reports for Senator Williams reveals the senator claims he has neither collected nor spent any campaign contributions in more than 5 years. In 2002 and before, Senator Williams’ campaign finance reports do show he collected and spent campaign contributions.
Interestingly enough the birth of “Texans for Tommy Williams” appears to coincide with the change in Senator Williams’ campaign finance reports. Additionally, Senator Williams and “Texans for Tommy Williams” both have the same campaign treasurer, Mr. Norman Parrish.
It is unclear at this point whether proper notice was in fact given to Senator Williams by the PAC. A public information request for the Election-Code-mandated written communication from the PAC to the senator was requested through the Public Information Act. The senator refused to hand over the requested information. Responding to the request, Senator Williams’ legal counsel stated, “the Act does not apply to correspondence between a candidate and a campaign committee…” Since “Texans for Tommy Williams” and Williams himself have the same campaign treasurer, it is hard to imagine Senator Williams was not aware of this political action committee.
On February 15, 2008, well after the original complaint was filed, Senator Williams submitted corrected campaign finance reports for the time period covered in the complaint. The corrected reports properly include “Texans for Tommy Williams” as a political action committee which collects and spends contributions on behalf of the senator. However, some campaign finance reports filed before the scope of the complaint have not been corrected.
According to state statutes, a complaint is classified as a Category One violation if it is generally not difficult to ascertain whether the violation occurred or whether it did not occur. Category One violations require a response from the accused within 10 business days.
Penalties handed out by the TEC for violations are civil in nature and can vary widely.
The TEC was created in 1991 by an amendment to the Texas Constitution. Some of the TEC responsibilities include administering and enforcing the following:
Title 15 of the Election Code including political campaigns and contributions.
Chapter 305 of the Government Code including lobbyist reports and activities.
Chapter 572 of the Government Code including personal financial disclosure and conduct of state officers and employees.