At a hearing before the 3rd Court of Appeals on Wednesday, a lawyer defending the Texas Ethics Commission compared the agency to a permanent grand jury handing down indictments.
In response to questions about the amount of evidence that is required before the Commission can proceed in investigating Texans, the TEC’s attorney compared the agency’s proceedings to the grand jury process.
Unlike a grand jury, which is composed of citizens selected from the community, the Texas Ethics Commission is composed of four Democrats and four Republicans appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker. The TEC has typically been made up of washed out former politicians, political donors, and failed candidates.
Indeed, the TEC is nothing like a grand jury.
For example, as an administrative agency, the TEC is not subject to the speedy trial provisions of the Constitution. Similarly, the TEC has not been required to reach a decision before the statute of limitations on an offense lapses. Accordingly, TEC investigations can drag on for years before the accused is afforded relief in a real court.
A grand jury is empaneled for only a defined period of time – always less than a year, and usually just a few months. The TEC, on the other hand, has commissioners who have served long past their constitutionally limited terms by conspiring with political allies to thwart the appointment process.
Yet the Commission has the audacity to compare its findings to criminal indictments.
TEC commissioners have acknowledged that citizens often leave their closed-door hearings “in tears” and vowing to “never participate in the [political] process again.”
It’s no surprise that a national study conducted last year found the TEC’s services dead last in user satisfaction and transparency.
It is time for real ethics reforms that frees Texans from unconstitutional speech regulations and that puts a focus back on government and politicians.