In 2016, New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver went to prison for a bribery scheme involving legal referral fees. Legal referral fees are fees earned by attorneys not for doing work, but for funneling work to others. A relatively common practice amongst private attorneys, the fees can be a method to conceal bribes and other kickback schemes involving public officials.
Texas must pass genuine ethics reform that prevents the Lone Star State from going the way of New York. Those lawmakers who are also attorneys should be required to disclose any legal referral fees they receive so that Texans can decide whether they present a conflict of interest.
Likewise, a number of Texas lawmakers profit by serving as “bond counsel” for the issuance of public debt. These lawmakers stand to earn standard fees, often for providing little actual work.
Taxpayers should know if their representatives are earning a living promoting more and more state and local debt.
Aside from the conflict inherent in public officials profiting from the issuance of bonds, the fees are an additional method taxing entities can use to gain favor with lawmakers who have authority over them.
These conflicts must be exposed and eliminated.