At their most recent meeting, the commissioners of the Texas Ethics Commission voted to fine the Texas Home School Coalition $1,900 after the organization voluntarily corrected reports it had filed with the agency. Meanwhile, at the very same meeting, the Commission gave a break to a Democratic state representative who had missed reporting deadlines by more than nine months.

[side_text]”Ethics” commissioners have publicly joked about whether “bribery works” when increasing lawmakers’ per diems[/side_text]The Homeschoolers had voluntarily filed a disclosure statement with the Commission noting they had independently spent some of the organization’s funds urging voters to elect a slate of candidates the group supported. Less than two weeks after filing the report, the Coalition filed a corrected statement noting that it had spent less money than it had previously estimated, and correcting the list of candidates that were included in the mailer.

As a reward for the organization’s efforts to voluntarily comply with the state’s burdensome campaign finance disclosure laws, the commissioners voted to fine the group $1,900 for filing the corrected report.

Yet at the same meeting, the TEC voted to confirm a reduction it had given to Democratic State Rep. Marisa Marquez (D–El Paso). Marquez had missed a filing deadline by more than nine months, yet the commissioners were willing to reduce her $10,000 fine to a mere $1,000.

This reduction for a legislator, who controls the TEC’s budget, comes from the same set of commissioners who joked about whether “bribery works” when they voted to give a substantial bump in legislative per diems earlier this year.

Attorneys for the Homeschool Coalition argued it was not even clear if the group was required to file the report at all, and that the original filing had been an honest mistake that was quickly corrected. Former TEC Chairman Jim Clancy responded by stating on the record that he wished the Commission would fine THSC $16,000 instead of $1,900 because that was the full amount of their independent expenditure.

Clancy did not mention that THSC sued the Commission over unconstitutional rules they adopted last year.

In an interview with the Texas Tribune in 2013, Clancy acknowledged that those who attempt to work with the Commission end up getting abused by its processes, or lack thereof:

“One of challenges we have is that those people who come to us, who try to disclose, are typically the ones who are fined. People who don’t report, who ignore the disclosure system, those folks are rarely involved.”

Due to a combination of their hostility to free speech, general incompetence, and outright malevolence, the Texas Ethics Commission (headed by Democrat and Joe Straus appointee Paul Hobby) has become the single greatest threat to the fundamental liberties of Texas citizens.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.