With long-time executive director Natalia Luna Ashley jumping ship at the Texas Ethics Commission after 22 years, the agency is bringing in another seasoned bureaucrat with a record of using her office to abuse the free speech rights of others.
The commission has brought in Seana Willing to serve as its new Executive Director. Over the past 13 years, Willing has served as the executive director of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
At the SCJC, Willing used the agency to target Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht after he gave interviews in 2006 supporting the nomination of Harriet Miers to the United States Supreme Court. Hecht appealed a ruling by the commission against him and a court of appeals upheld his right to free speech.
Under Willing’s leadership, the SCJC has also failed to deal with complaints filed against Collin County District Judge Chris Oldner for his misbehavior related to the indictments of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Austin blogger Andy Hogue has noted that Willing has allied herself with the radical progressive “safe space” movement by tagging her Facebook profile with a picture of a safety pin. Since Donald Trump’s election in November, the safety pin has become a symbol for progressives who favor the creation of “safe spaces” to protect those who might be offended by his victory.
Willing takes over an agency that was found last year to be dead-last in transparency in a national study of ethics bureaus.
The Ethics Commission is in the midst of litigation that could see it unwound by the courts. The agency has judicially admitted that it is a part of the legislative branch. That presents a serious separation-of-powers problem for the commission because the legislature has assigned a number of executive powers to the agency.
Under Willing’s leadership over the next couple of years, a court is likely to rule that the commission’s main day-to-day powers are unconstitutionally assigned and that it must be shut down.