Former State Rep. Lance Gooden is seeking a do-over of his last election in which voters turned him out of office in favor of State Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R–Kaufman). In his first session in office, Spitzer offered a significant upgrade over Gooden and earned accolades as a Taxpayer Champion for his conservative voting record.
A major issue late in the Spitzer-Gooden race in 2014 related to Gooden’s employment. Gooden is young and single, and the source of his personal income had long been a mystery to his constituents. But late in the 2014 primary election, it was revealed that Gooden was working directly for Ryan LLC, a leading tax consulting firm with a million-dollar lobby presence in Austin. In addition to a robust tax consulting practice, Ryan LLC also specializes in acquiring tax-funded economic development grants and exemptions for businesses.
Lance Gooden’s position with Ryan LLC raised serious questions about conflicts-of-interest between his role as a public servant, and his employment with a firm that has interests in many bills, including tax legislation and the state budget. To many, it seemed impossible that any representative could simultaneously serve his constituents and properly recuse himself from all the myriad of issues implicated by his employer’s million-dollar lobby operation.
Gooden’s position with Ryan LLC undoubtedly puts a cloud over his effort to return to office. Because he has left office, it is unknown if Gooden retained the position, but for voters it should matter little whether he is still employed there or not.
If Lance Gooden is still working for Ryan LLC, then the problem is very simple; the conflicts of interest remain and would cripple his service in the legislature.
If Ryan LLC no longer employs him, then it raises two other important questions:
First, why did they hire Gooden when he was a state representative if they chose to cut him loose when he no longer had a vote?
Second, is Lance Gooden running for office just so that he can get his old job back?