It is one thing for legislators to get an award they’ve earned — such as the Taxpayer Champion and Advocate Awards we present to those working to protect our economy. But it’s more than a little unseemly when a group created, and funded, by government is handing out awards to a legislator who seemed to buy the honors with our money.
State Sen. Jeff Wentworth last week received the “Star of Justice Award” from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
The award’s title makes it sound like it should go to a lawyer toiling pro bono in the service of a deserving client; maybe an abused child or cheated widow. Or maybe it should go to someone who devoted their own personal resources to funding a private charity serving the poor.
Instead it went to Sen. Wentworth, who appropriated $20 million of your dollars to the state-organized entity. Isn’t he generous?!
The organization was charted by the Texas Supreme Court and it distributes money from the “Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts” program.
According to one board member, “We were on a slippery slope — it looked pretty bleak there for a long time … We were struggling to make budgets and cutting staff, including lawyers.”
Wentworth went to the bat for the group. As chairman of the Senate’s Jurisprudence Committee, he sponsored legislation depositing $20 million into the organization’s bank account.
This isn’t to comment on the worthiness of the entity; certainly ensuring those without means deserve access to the courts when they have been wronged.
This is about the rather unseemly appearance of a government-funded entity handing out awards to the legislators who provide them money from your pocket.
And, of course, one is left to wonder if the cost for the actual award was included in the $20 million Wentworth appropriated from our wallets.