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During his campaign for the Texas Railroad Commission, Gary Gates has had trouble being honest about his connections to disgraced State Rep. Jim Keffer (R–Eastland). He first touted Keffer himself as a technical advisor and for his endorsement as the former House Energy Resources chairman. But after criticism from grassroots conservatives opposed to Keffer’s liberal record, Gates has settled on touting his relationship with Adam Haynes, Keffer’s long-time legislative chief of staff.

Gates has no personal qualifications for the Railroad Commission, which oversees the state’s oil and gas industry. In defense of his lack of technical skill, Gates has touted Haynes as an advisor on oil and gas matters. It is unclear whether Haynes was involved with Gates’ campaign in January when Gates attacked the Texas’ coal industry as a contributor to “climate change.”

In March, Haynes was witnessed regularly attending campaign events during the daytime hours with Gates, including newspaper endorsement interviews.

There’s one problem with that: Haynes appears to still be on Jim Keffer’s tax-funded payroll in March, and to have not taken any leave to account for the campaign activity.

Keffer will leave the legislature in January, having chosen to retire in lieu of facing a very difficult reelection campaign against former Hood County Constable Mike Lang. Despite his lame duck status, Keffer continues to have access to tax funds to operate his legislative office and to pay staff, including Haynes.

A Public Information Act request to Keffer’s office and to the House Payroll Office produced no responsive records regarding Haynes taking vacation, sick leave, or any other leave of absence during the month of March, when Haynes and Gates were witnessed together on campaign outings during regular working hours.

These facts raise concerns that Gates is using a tax-funded state employee, during hours when he should be at work at his state job, as a campaign staffer. If true, that could raise legal and election law concerns for Gates, Haynes, and Keffer.