For years the Texas Ethics Commission has served as a tool for political insiders to suppress the speech of those they disagree with. Over the past five years the commissioners have abused their power in a manner akin to disgraced IRS director Lois Lerner.
The TEC is comprised of eight commissioners—four appointed by the Governor and two each by the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House.
Yet despite having only two of eight appointments, House Speaker Joe Straus (R–San Antonio) effectively controls the TEC. His Republican appointee, Chase Untermeyer, is the TEC’s chairman. His Democrat appointee, Steve Wolens, was unanimously elected vice chair by his fellow commissioners at his very first meeting.
Wolens was appointed to replace the outgoing Paul Hobby, a Democrat who resigned following revelations he had been coordinating media statements with Straus’ office.
Such coordination wasn’t limited to Hobby. At a TEC hearing last week Untermeyer stated that he too was “in regular contact” with Straus’ chief of staff and general counsel.
The “haughty and arrogant” TEC desperately needs to take the “new direction” that conservative groups and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are demanding. Unfortunately, it is clear no change in direction will take place as long as Straus’ surrogates remain in control.
Commissioners will have a chance to elect a new chairman and vice chairman and chart a new course at their meeting in December.