Cumulative Digest of Ethics Advisory Opinions

1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999


1995 Opinions

EAO No. 240 (1995) – A clerk of a court of appeals is not required to file an annual financial disclosure statement under chapter 572 of the Government Code.

EAO No. 241 (1995) – A legislator may use political contributions to pay reasonable household expenses in Austin. The term "reasonable household expenses" includes rent and phone service for an Austin residence but does not include all meals in Austin. A legislator may use political contributions to pay for expenses such as gas, parking, tips, tolls, or a mobile phone that are incurred in connection with state business.

EAO No. 242 (1995) – A nonprofit corporation formed to produce an informational newsletter for distribution to a city council member's constituents must form a political committee, since such a publication would constitute an officeholder contribution.

EAO No. 243 (1995) – Members of the Psychological Associate Advisory Committee are not required to file annual financial disclosure statements under chapter 572 of the Government Code.

EAO No. 244 (1995) – An unrestricted donation of political contributions to the state treasury is not a conversion of those political contributions to personal use for purposes of section 253.035 of the Election Code.

EAO No. 245 (1995) – Judges and judicial candidates may use political contributions to pay state bar dues if the judicial office they hold or seek requires them to be licensed to practice law in Texas.

EAO No. 246 (1995) – The revolving door provisions of section 572.054 of the Government Code do not prohibit a former member of the State Board of Education from representing a textbook publisher in a matter to be decided by a local school board.

EAO No. 247 (1995) – A judge may use political contributions to pay expenses incurred in connection with a course of study related to the judge's duties or activities of office.

EAO No. 248 (1995) – Section 253.038 of the Election Code, which prohibits the use of political contributions to make payments on a note for the purchase of real property, does not apply to payments for property purchased before January 1, 1992.

If political contributions are used to pay part of the purchase price of an asset, a proportional amount of any income from the asset is subject to the prohibition on personal use in section 253.035 of the Election Code.

EAO No. 249 (1995) – A member of the legislature may use political contributions to pay for transportation to and from Austin for legislative purposes. A payment from political contributions to a business in one of the categories listed in section 253.041(a) must not exceed the amount necessary to reimburse the business for actual expenditures made by the business.

If a situation arises in which a payment from political contributions is subject to both the restriction in section 253.041 and also the prohibition on corporate political contributions, the payment to the corporation must be in the amount reasonably necessary to reimburse the corporation for its expenses, neither more nor less.

EAO No. 250 (1995) – A former general counsel of the Texas Department of Insurance is not subject to the revolving door provisions in section 572.054 of the Government Code.

EAO No. 251 (1995) – A former employee of a regulatory agency may teach courses required for recertification of pesticide applicators provided that he did not work on the applications for recertification of any of his students.

EAO No. 252 (1995) – The prohibitions in section 36.08(f) of the Penal Code do not apply to a benefit accepted by a legislator's spouse. The issue of who accepts a benefit is a fact question.

The prohibition on certain gifts in section 305.024(a)(2) of the Government Code does not apply to fees for actual services rendered.

Section 572.024 of the Government Code does not require a legislator to report fees received by the legislator's spouse for services rendered by the legislator's spouse.

EAO No. 253 (1995) – ** Opinion History** The moratorium on political contributions during the legislative session does not apply to state district judges.

EAO No. 254 (1995) – Nothing in title 15 of the Election Code prohibits the use of political contributions to supplement the salaries of state employees. A salary supplement paid by a legislator to state employees who work for the officeholder is permissible under section 36.10(a)(2) of the Penal Code.

EAO No. 255 (1995) – The revolving door provision in section 572.054(b) of the Government Code does not prevent a former employee of the Real Estate Commission who was involved in the administration of real estate examinations from teaching courses to prepare applicants to take the real estate licensing examination.

EAO No. 256 (1995) – In a situation in which a member of the governing board of a state agency has a personal or private interest in a matter pending before the board, section 572.058 of the Government Code requires that the board

member disclose the interest and recuse himself from participation in the matter. Section 572.058 does not require the board member to divest himself of the interest.

EAO No. 257 (1995) – A member of the Board of Vocational Nurse Examiners should not offer continuing education courses for profit for vocational nurses seeking license renewal.

EAO No. 258 (1995) – ** Opinion History** Although the technically correct way to report the use of personal funds is to disclose expenditures made from these funds on Schedule G of Form C/OH, a candidate who has reported his use of personal funds for political expenditures as loans to his campaign is not prohibited from reimbursing himself from political contributions in the amount of the personal funds spent for political purposes.

EAO No. 259 (1995) – Expenditures for food and beverages are required to be reported under chapter 305 of the Government Code only if the expenditures are made to communicate directly with a member of the legislative or executive branch to influence legislation or administrative action.

A lobby registrant may confer a gift in the form of transportation or lodging to his or her spouse, even if the spouse is a member of the legislative or executive branch. A lobby registrant may not confer a gift in the form of transportation or lodging to a personal friend who is a member of the legislative or executive branch unless one of the exceptions in Government Code section 305.025 is applicable.

EAO No. 260 (1995) – It is a matter for the legislature, subject to constitutional limitations, to determine the appropriate uses for legislative resources. It is also up to the legislature to determine whether there are circumstances in which a member of the legislature may use for personal purposes computers owned by the state and reimburse the state for any costs to the state.

EAO No. 261 (1995) – County officials may accept transportation and lodging necessary for attendance at a vendor's demonstration of equipment even though the vendor's representatives are not in the vehicles or hotels, if the vendor's representatives are present at the demonstration. For acceptance of meals to be permissible, the donor's representatives must be present at the meals.

EAO No. 262 (1995) – A corporation that extends credit to a candidate does not make an illegal political contribution, provided that the extension of credit is motivated by normal business practice rather than an intent to aid the candidate's campaign. Whether a corporation extended credit to a candidate with the intent to aid the candidate's campaign is a fact question.

EAO No. 263 (1995) – None of the provisions subject to interpretation by the Texas Ethics Commission prohibit a corporation owned by a legislator's spouse from selling a tract of land that the purchaser intends to develop for lease to the state, provided that neither the corporation nor the legislator retains any interest in the property.

EAO No. 264 (1995) – Masters appointed under section 14.82 of the Family Code are not required to file annual financial disclosure statements under chapter 572 of the Government Code.

EAO No. 265 (1995) – Chapter 572 of the Government Code does not require a person who is authorized to act in a state officer's absence to file a personal financial statement.

EAO No. 266 (1995) – A company's receipt of income from "900-number" phone tolls in the specific situation described in this opinion does not require the company to register as the lobbyist in the given situation.

EAO No. 267 (1995) – A judge may use political contributions to pay expenses incurred in connection with a course of study related to the judge's duties or activities of office.

EAO No. 268 (1995) – Waiver of a membership fee to a private club is a "benefit" for purposes of chapter 36 of the Penal Code.

As a general rule, a candidate or officeholder could accept an offer to use the facilities of a private club for campaign or officeholder purposes. Such a contribution would not be permissible, however, if the club were incorporated. If a candidate or officeholder accepted the opportunity to use the facilities of a private club as a campaign contribution or an officeholder contribution, the candidate or officeholder could not use the facilities for personal purposes unrelated to his or her candidacy or to his or her duties or activities of office.

If a state agency or office accepted the opportunity to use the facilities of a private club for state business, it would be a misuse of government resources for such opportunities accepted on behalf of the state to be used for personal or campaign purposes.

EAO No. 269 (1995) – An officeholder may not use a state plane for purposes other than those authorized by section 2205.036 even if the officeholder pays for such use.

The basis for reimbursement for personal use of an airplane paid for with campaign funds is the reasonable value of the personal use.

EAO No. 270 (1995) – A group that accepts contributions and makes expenditures to assist members of the legislature acting in their capacity as legislators in filing a lawsuit is a political committee for purposes of title 15 of the Election Code.

EAO No. 271 (1995) – A specific-purpose political committee supporting a candidate has an identity separate from the candidate. If the candidate makes a transfer to the committee, the committee must report a contribution from the candidate.

EAO No. 272 (1995) – A county executive committee of a political party may not use corporate contributions to pay the costs associated with the printing and distribution of brochures soliciting donations to and membership in the party or the costs associated with voter registration drives.

EAO No. 273 (1995) – Whether a member of the legislature may accept a speaking fee depends on the motivation of the person requesting that the legislator speak. Although the permissibility of any particular fee must be determined on a case-by-case basis, the fact that a legislator received fees for speaking before becoming a member of the legislature is certainly strong evidence that the legislator is a desirable speaker for reasons other than his status as a member of the legislature.

A legislator may accept expenses for travel, lodging, and meals in connection with a speaking engagement even if the honorarium provision prohibits the acceptance of a fee for the speaking engagement.

EAO No. 274 (1995) – Under the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act, a contribution by the spouse of an individual is considered to be a contribution by the individual. A judicial candidate may not accept from a member of a law firm political contributions exceeding the maximum amount prescribed in Election Code section 253.155. If a member of a law firm moves from one firm to another, political contributions made by the member count toward the contribution limits only of the law firm of which he was a member when he made the contributions.

EAO No. 275 (1995) – Former officers and employees of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) should look to Health and Safety Code sections 361.0885 and 382.0591 and Water Code section 26.0283, not to section 572.054 of the Government Code, to determine whether they may work on a permit matter.

EAO No. 276 (1995) – If a judge determines in good faith that a groundless lawsuit has been filed against him solely because of his status as a judge, the judge may use political contributions to pay the expenses of defending the lawsuit.

EAO No. 277 (1995) – Title 15 of the Texas Election Code does not prohibit a Texas corporation from making contributions and expenditures in connection with elections in other states.

EAO No. 278 (1995) – The revolving door provisions in section 572.054 of the Government Code do not prohibit a former member of the Texas Commission on Fire Protection from serving on an advisory committee to the commission.

EAO No. 279 (1995) – A senior judge may use surplus political funds to pay for continuing legal education courses.

EAO No. 280 (1995) – An incorporated hospital may finance the costs of green fees and small token prizes in connection with a golf tournament fundraiser for the hospital's general-purpose committee. The hospital may pay for t-shirts sold to corporate employees and their families to raise funds for the political committee if the sale complies with the Federal Election Commission's "one-third" rule.

EAO No. 281 (1995) – ** Opinion History** A transfer between a judicial candidate and a specific-purpose political committee supporting the candidate is not subject to the contribution limits in the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act.

EAO No. 282 (1995) – City employees may accept discounts from child care providers under a group discount program offered to personnel of large employers in the private as well as the public sector.

EAO No. 283 (1995) – A legislator may accept payment from a law firm for services rendered to the law firm as long as the services were rendered in a capacity other than as a public servant.

EAO No. 284 (1995) – A judge may use political contributions to pay the expenses of a social event sponsored by a bar association as long as the payments are in connection with a judge's activities as a candidate or officeholder.

EAO No. 285 (1995) – The revolving door law restricts certain former state officers and employees from receiving compensation in connection with any matter over which the former officer or employee had authority, even if the former officer or employee was not aware that his subordinates were working on the matter.

EAO No. 286 (1995) – It is permissible to donate surplus funds from a campaign for speaker of the House of Representatives to a recognized tax-exempt charitable organization.

EAO No. 287 (1995) – Members of the legislature may accept food, transportation, and lodging from public universities and community colleges in connection with a visit to the public universities and community colleges as long as representatives of the universities and community colleges are present during the visit.

EAO No. 288 (1995) – A judicial candidate for a newly created district court may accept political contributions and make political expenditures despite the fact that the new district has yet to be approved by the United States Department of Justice, provided that the candidate has filed a campaign treasurer appointment and a Judicial Declaration of Intent form with the proper filing authority for the newly created district court.

EAO No. 289 (1995) – Holiday greeting cards sent by an officeholder and paid for with political contributions are not required to contain a political advertising disclosure as long as the name and address of the officeholder sending the cards appear on the card itself or on the envelope.

EAO No. 290 (1995) – Whether an article in a magazine published by a nonprofit corporation describing the purposes of the corporation's political committee is a solicitation of contributions to the committee is a fact question. If the article is a solicitation, it would be a permissible corporate expenditure if the magazine is sent only to employees or members of the corporation or to the families of employees or members.

EAO No. 291 (1995) – A former judge sitting by assignment may use unexpended political contributions to pay for required continuing legal education courses.

EAO No. 292 (1995) – The revolving door statute does not restrict a former commissioner or deputy commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission from engaging in activities on behalf of persons seeking action from one of the health and human services agencies within the purview of the commission.

EAO No. 293 (1995) – ** Opinion History** An agency head may use funds accepted in accordance with section 36.10(a)(3) of the Penal Code to pay the expenses of moving from one city to the city in which he or she has headquarters as an agency head.

Section 36.10(a)(3) of the Penal Code does not place any limitations on the source of the benefits that may be accepted by an agency head under that section.

EAO No. 294 (1995) – The honorarium provision does not prohibit a state officer or employee from accepting payment for teaching a course if the individual was asked to teach because of his expertise and not because of his official status. A state officer or employee may accept payment from a person subject to his agency's regulation or inspection if he has given legitimate consideration for the payment in a capacity other than his official position.

EAO No. 295 (1995) – An employee who used state agency work time to work on a lawsuit the employee had filed against the state would be misusing a thing of value belonging to the state.

EAO No. 296 (1995) – Use of political contributions to purchase items to decorate an officeholder's Capitol office is a use connected with officeholder activities and is therefore not a violation of the personal use prohibition. Items purchased with political contributions may not be converted to personal use at the end of an officeholder's tenure in office.


1996 Opinions

EAO No. 297 (1996) – The Election Code does not permit the use of political contributions to pay for the Governor's travel or for the travel of members of the Governor's immediate family if the primary purpose of the trip is personal. If the Governor or a member of his family uses a private airplane for personal travel because of the undue difficulties of commercial air travel that are attributable to state security measures, the costs of using a private plane that exceed the price of commercial airfare are attributable to activities in connection with the office of the Governor and therefore properly payable from political contributions.

EAO No. 298 (1996) – A member of the board of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs who has submitted a bid or has been awarded a contract pertaining to a project of a developer who applies for tax credits for the project under the department's tax credit program must disclose in an open meeting that he has an interest in the award of tax credits to the developer and recuse himself from participation in the matter. The board member would not be required to recuse himself from participation in other matters involving the general administration of the tax credit program.

EAO No. 299 (1996) – Plaintiffs in a lawsuit may contribute a payment made to the plaintiffs in settlement of the lawsuit to a political party to use for campaign purposes as long as none of the plaintiffs is an entity subject to the restrictions on political contributions from corporations or labor organizations in subchapter D of chapter 253 of the Election Code.

EAO No. 300 (1996) – A judicial candidate is not restricted in the amount the candidate may accept from the candidate's father, even if the father's contribution consists of his own political funds.

EAO No. 301 (1996) – ** Opinion History** Title 15 of the Election Code does not prohibit a corporation from making contributions to a candidate for county chair of a political party.

EAO No. 302 (1996) – ** Opinion History** For purposes of the limits on expenditures and reimbursement of personal funds in the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act, the primary election and the general election are considered separate elections.

EAO No. 303 (1996) – ** Opinion History** The use of the title "Judge" by a retired judge who sits by assignment does not, by itself, represent that the former judge holds an office he does not hold.

EAO No. 304 (1996) – The Ethics Commission does not have jurisdiction to determine whether a public university has either statutory or constitutional authority to provide meeting facilities, food, transportation, or lodging to a legislative caucus. There is nothing in the laws under the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission that would prohibit a legislative caucus from accepting meeting facilities, food, transportation, and lodging as an in-kind contribution from a university as long as they are not accepted during a regular legislative session or during the 30-day period before a regular legislative session. Although individual members of the legislature are subject to restrictions on the acceptance of benefits, they may accept food, transportation, and lodging as a guest of the caucus as long as they comply with any applicable reporting requirements.

EAO No. 305 (1996) – A public servant may accept an honorarium for performing services if the public servant's official status was not a deciding factor in the decision to request the public servant to perform those services.

EAO No. 306 (1996) – The Election Code requires a filing authority to preserve a campaign treasurer appointment filed by a candidate for two years after the candidate terminates that appointment. The Election Code requires a filing authority to preserve each report of contributions and expenditures filed by a candidate for two years after the date of filing.

EAO No. 307 (1996) – A district judge who accepted contributions in connection with a 1996 judicial election and eventually decided not to run may use those contributions to make officeholder expenditures or to make campaign expenditures in connection with a future judicial election.

EAO No. 308 (1996) – "Backup records" maintained by a candidate or officeholder pursuant to section 254.001 of the Election Code are not public records under title 15 of the Election Code. Whether such records are public information under chapter 552 of the Government Code is a question for the attorney general.

EAO No. 309 (1996) – Members of the Crime Victims' Institute Advisory Council are not required to file annual personal financial statements with the Texas Ethics Commission.

EAO No. 310 (1996) – An officeholder may use political contributions to pay legal expenses incurred in connection with federal and state investigations of the officeholder for public corruption.

EAO No. 311 (1996) – A member of the Structural Pest Control Board should not teach certification or training courses for licensed pest control applicators, or consult with structural pest control businesses concerning problems that could result in disputes before the board.

EAO No. 312 (1996) – Under section 36.07 of the Penal Code a public servant may accept an honorarium for performing services as long as the public servant's official status was not a deciding factor in the decision to request the public servant to perform those services.

EAO No. 313 (1996) – An officeholder may use political contributions to pay for damages to property caused in the discharge of the officeholder's official duties.

EAO No. 314 (1996) – A judicial candidate may spend political contributions to hold a victory party in conjunction with a charity golf tournament.

EAO No. 315 (1996) – The campaign treasurer of general-purpose committee is liable for any fine imposed for filing a committee report late.

EAO No. 316 (1996) – The fact that an agency board member's law firm represents a client in matters not involving the board does not, by itself, create "a personal or private interest" on the part of the board member in a matter on which the client is seeking board action.

EAO No. 317 (1996) – As a general rule, the Texas Election Code does not prohibit the use of campaign contributions received in connection with one office to campaign for another office. There are, however, certain restrictions on using contributions accepted in connection with a nonjudicial office to make campaign expenditures in connection with a judicial office and on using contributions accepted in connection with a judicial office to make campaign expenditures in connection with a nonjudicial office. Also, federal law may restrict the use of contributions accepted in connection with a state or local office to make campaign expenditures in connection with a campaign for federal office.

EAO No. 318 (1996) – A member of the Board of Public Accountancy should not provide courses in a private capacity that satisfy continuing education requirements for board licensees. Nor should a board member conduct reviews that are required by the board.

EAO No. 319 (1996) – ** Opinion History** A legislator's use of political contributions to make a rental payment to his spouse for the use of her separate property does not constitute a payment to purchase real property and does not violate section 253.038 of the Election Code. Nor is such a payment a conversion to personal use as long as the payment does not exceed the fair market value of the use of the property.

EAO No. 320 (1996) – ** Opinion History** A precinct chair of a political party wishing to solicit political contributions to be used on campaign activities for his party's candidates must file an appointment of campaign treasurer of a general-purpose committee before exceeding $500 in political contributions or political expenditures. The treasurer of the committee would be required to follow the recordkeeping and reporting requirements of chapter 254 of the Election Code.

EAO No. 321 (1996) – Although a candidate may not suggest in political advertising and campaign communications that the candidate holds an office he or she does not hold, a candidate who is an officeholder is free to accurately identify himself or herself as the holder of a particular office.

The laws under the jurisdiction of the Texas Ethics Commission do not require that political advertising contain a disclaimer stating that the advertising was not paid for with public funds, but an officeholder may wish to include such a disclaimer to assure the public that public funds have not been used for campaign purposes.

EAO No. 322 (1996) – The deans of the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio, the University of Texas Dental School at San Antonio, the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston, the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston, the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, and the University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston are not executive heads of state agencies and, therefore, are not required to file personal financial statements under Government Code chapter 572.

EAO No. 323 (1996) – ** Opinion History** A judicial candidate's failure to file a declaration of intent under section 253.164 of the Election Code does not release the candidate's opponent from compliance with any of the restrictions in the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act.

EAO No. 324 (1996) – The revolving door provision in Government Code section 572.054(b) does not prohibit a former employee of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission from working on the certification of a groundwater monitoring system even though the former employee reviewed and approved or supervised the review and approval of the groundwater monitoring system during the permit application process while employed by the agency. The certification of a groundwater monitoring system and the review of a permit application are separate matters.

EAO No. 325 (1996) – A legislator may sell a piece of real property to a registered lobbyist provided that the purchase price reflects the fair market value of the property.

EAO No. 326 (1996) – On a financial statement filed under chapter 572 of the Government Code, a filer must list the stock of any business entity held or acquired during the year covered by the report, and if the stock is sold, the filer must report the category of the amount of net gain or loss realized from the sale. If a filer owns stock in a fund that itself owns stock, the filer is required to report only the stock the filer owns, not the stock the fund owns. On the other hand, if a filer has delegated the responsibility to buy and sell stocks to an account manager but retains ownership of the stocks, the filer must report the required information about each of the stocks held or acquired during the year covered by the report.

EAO No. 327 (1996) – A corporation may make expenditures for creating and maintaining an Internet site containing photos and information relating to candidates in upcoming elections if all candidates in an election have access to the site on an equal basis and if the site is not used to support or oppose any candidate.

EAO No. 328 (1996) – The legislature has not preempted the entire subject matter of campaign finance from regulation by home-rule cities. Therefore, a particular provision of a city campaign finance ordinance is preempted by state law only if it is not possible to give effect to both that provision and to the provisions of title 15 of the Election Code.

The Texas Ethics Commission does not have jurisdiction to determine whether specific provisions of a city campaign finance ordinance are in conflict with title 15.

EAO No. 329 (1996) – An award of damages to a candidate in a lawsuit brought under Election Code section 253.131 is not a contribution given with the intent to aid the recipient's campaign; nor is the award of damages reportable by the recipient under any other provision of title 15.

An individual who provides free legal services to a candidate who brings a lawsuit under section 253.131 makes a non-reportable political contribution, since the contribution of an individual's personal service is not required to be reported.

EAO No. 330 (1996) – An individual who files an application to be considered for nomination at a party convention under chapter 181 or 182 of the Election Code is a "partisan candidate" for purposes of section 572.027(a) of the Government Code and is required to file a personal financial disclosure statement by the deadline set out in that section.

An individual who notified the party chair by February 12 of his or her intent to withdraw an application for consideration for nomination at a party convention was not required to file a personal financial disclosure statement under chapter 572 of the Government Code.

EAO No. 331 (1996) – A candidate is required to report a direct campaign expenditure (as opposed to a contribution) made to support him or her only if the candidate receives notice under sections 253.062(a)(1), 254.128(a), or 254.161 of the Election Code.

EAO No. 332 (1996) – Contributions collected by an officeholder's son for a retirement party for the officeholder are "officeholder contributions" subject to title 15 of the Election Code if the officeholder plays a decision-making role in regard to the party.

EAO No. 333 (1996) – For purposes of Government Code section 572.024, a state officer "actually knows" that a client directly compensates or reimburses a person required to be registered as a lobbyist if the state officer has express information to that effect or can acquire that express information through readily available means. A fee received by a business entity from a client who directly compensates or reimburses a person required to be registered as a lobbyist is not a fee received by a state officer for purposes of section 572.024 unless the business entity is the alter ego of the state officer.

EAO No. 334 (1996) – Contributions to an officeholder made with the intent to defray expenses incurred by the officeholder in connection with an investigation of the officeholder for alleged official misconduct are "officeholder contributions" for purposes of title 15 of the Election Code.

EAO No. 335 (1996) – A candidate in a primary runoff and unopposed in the general election may accept political contributions during a period ending 120 days after the date of the primary runoff.

EAO No. 336 (1996) – A corporation that provides all candidates the same opportunity to make campaign materials available to corporate employees would not be making a campaign contribution. In this context "the same opportunity" means not only that all candidates must be given the opportunity to provide information, but also that the corporate communications to each candidate regarding the opportunity to provide information must be essentially the same and that the corporation must handle each candidate's information in the same way.

EAO No. 337 (1996) – A sales tax audit and a redetermination proceeding in which the audit findings are disputed are part of the same "matter" for purposes of section 572.054(b) of the Government Code.

EAO No. 338 (1996) – Section 305.026(a) of the Government Code places restrictions on the use of political subdivision funds to compensate a person who communicates with legislative officers or employees for the purpose of influencing legislation. Those restrictions do not apply to a political subdivision's payment of dues to an organization that uses the dues to pay a registered lobbyist.

EAO No. 339 (1996) – ** Opinion History** For purposes of calculating the fundraising period under section 253.153(a)(1)(B) of the Election Code, a vacancy occurs on the date provided by section 201.023 of the Election Code.

A judicial candidate nominated under section 202.006 of the Election Code to fill a vacancy in an unexpired term at the November general election may accept political contributions until 120 days after the November general election, regardless of whether the candidate has an opponent in the November election.

EAO No. 340 (1996) – An incorporated association may make expenditures for candidate appearances before the association's members or stockholders only if all candidates for the office are given the same opportunity to appear and are presented on an equal footing. An incorporated association may make expenditures to set up a phone bank to urge members or stockholders and their families to vote for particular candidates, or to conduct a partisan get-out-the-vote drive directed at those individuals, only if the candidates benefitted have not given their prior consent or approval. Corporate expenditures incurred in issuing a press release through the corporation's usual press contacts announcing endorsements of candidates by a political committee established by the corporation are prohibited political expenditures.

EAO No. 341 (1996) – Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 185 (1994), which concluded that the prohibition against certain contingent fees in section 305.022 of the Government Code does not prohibit contingent fees for efforts to influence state agency purchasing decisions, applies to all fees for efforts to influence agency purchasing decisions, regardless of whether the person attempting to influence an agency purchasing decision is working as an employee of a vendor or as an independent contractor.

EAO No. 342 (1996) – In a judicial district with a population between 250,000 and 1,000,000, a law firm may not contribute more than $2,500 in the aggregate per election to a candidate for district judge.

EAO No. 343 (1996) – Excluding candidates from a candidate forum makes the forum itself a communication in support of those included because the exclusion of certain candidates lends the sponsor's tacit support to those included as the candidates worthy of consideration by the audience.

EAO No. 344 (1996) – Whether a general-purpose political committee is willing to honor a request to use a contribution from an individual for administrative purposes only is a matter between the contributor and the committee. A contribution from an individual to a general-purpose political committee that is earmarked for administrative purposes must be reported.

EAO No. 345 (1996) – The fact that a former state employee worked on an agency grant application seeking federal funds does not prohibit the former state employee from working on a response to the agency's request for proposals for projects to be funded by grant proceeds, nor from working on the project itself.

EAO No. 346 (1996) – Whether the provision of an opportunity to appear at an event constitutes a political contribution depends on the intent with which the opportunity is provided.

EAO No. 347 (1996) – If a candidate or officeholder uses a personal car for political purposes, reporting is required only if and when the candidate or officeholder pays himself reimbursement from political contributions.

EAO No. 348 (1996) – A judicial candidate who has accepted contributions in accordance with the provisions of the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act may use those contributions to pay debts incurred in connection with a past judicial election.

EAO No. 349 (1996) – A candidate or officeholder is not required to include political expenditures from personal funds under "aggregate principal amount of all outstanding loans as of the last day of the reporting period."

EAO No. 350 (1996) – Section 253.162(b) of the Election Code does not apply to the repayment of a loan made before June 16, 1995.

EAO No. 351 (1996) – ** Opinion History** Justices and justices-elect of the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals who had an opponent in the November 1996 general election may accept political contributions in accordance with the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act until March 5, 1997.

EAO No. 352 (1996) – The compensation the plaintiffs' attorneys have agreed to in the case described in this opinion is not contingent on the passage of legislation.

EAO No. 353 (1996) – Section 572.054(b) of the Government Code does not prohibit a former agency employee who worked on some specific purchasing decisions for an agency from performing work for a vendor in connection with other purchasing decisions by the agency.

EAO No. 354 (1996) – A member of the House of Representatives who intends to run for the Senate in a special election that has not yet been ordered but which will almost certainly be ordered and held during the 1997 Legislative Session may rely on the exception set out in section 253.034(c)(1) of the Election Code.

EAO No. 355 (1996) – An incorporated association may offer members of the legislature world wide web home pages and related services during the legislative session if the services are donated to directly communicate with the members with the intent to influence legislative action, and are properly reported by a registered lobbyist.


1997 Opinions

EAO No. 356 (1997) – Whether a member of the Texas Legislature may use political contributions to pay expenses in connection with a swearing-in ceremony for a member of the United States Congress depends on the intent with which the expenditures are made.

 EAO No. 357 (1997) – A legislative caucus must refuse contributions of personal services from nonmembers during the moratorium period imposed by Election Code section 253.0341 even if the agreement to provide the services was entered into before the start of the moratorium period.

 EAO No. 358 (1997) – Whether a legislative employee may engage in outside business activity depends on the specific nature of the outside business activity. Although there is no absolute prohibition on outside employment by legislative employees in the laws interpreted by the Ethics Commission, any legislative employee considering outside employment should review the provisions mentioned in this opinion to make sure that the outside employment is permissible.

 EAO No. 359 (1997) – A legislator may use political contributions to pay or reimburse expenditures incurred by a staff member who normally resides in Austin to lease and furnish a second residence in the legislator’s district if the legislator has requested that the staff member spend time in the legislator’s district during the legislative session to maintain contact with the legislator’s constituents. In the situation described in this opinion, the legislator’s payment of those expenses is not a prohibited "benefit" to the staff member.

 EAO No. 360 (1997) – A contribution of personal services to a candidate or officeholder is not reportable because Election Code section 254.033 specifically excepts contributions of personal services from the reporting requirements. The Election Code does not, however, except from the reporting requirements contributions in the form of payment of expenditures made in connection with rendering personal services. Therefore, such payments are reportable.

 EAO No. 361 (1997) – Chapter 572 of the Government Code does not place an obligation on a state agency to provide a former employee with a list of matters in which the former employee participated.

 EAO No. 362 (1997) – A corporation’s payment of the specific employee award described in this opinion is permissible as a solicitation cost under Election Code section 253.100(b).

 EAO No. 363 (1997) – Contributions to a legislator for a legal defense fund to cover the expenses of defending two lawsuits brought against the legislator in a private professional capacity would not be officeholder contributions. Further, the legislator may not use political contributions on hand to pay the expenses of defending the two lawsuits in question.

The provision of legal services at no charge would be a "benefit" for purposes of chapter 36 of the Penal Code.

 EAO No. 364 (1997) – As long as a former Lottery Commission employee’s new job does not involve a specific contract he worked on or any other specific matter he worked on as a Lottery Commission employee, his work for a private employer he previously dealt with as a Lottery Commission employee will not bring him into violation of the revolving door provision in Government Code section 572.054(b).

EAO No. 365 (1997) – A former employee of the Department of Transportation who participated in the matter of the acquisition of a specific piece of property may not represent a private business entity or receive compensation from a private business entity for services in regard to the department’s acquisition of the same piece of property.

The matter of assuring compliance with an agency rule or policy is not part of the same matter as the matter of drafting or adopting the agency rule or policy.

EAO No. 366 (1997) – The laws governing political contributions and lobby expenditures do not limit the use of state resources for a state purpose simply because political contributions and lobby gifts are also used to support that state purpose.

EAO No. 367 (1997) – An Ohio domestic mutual insurance company may make expenditures to solicit contributions from its policyholders to its Texas general-purpose political committee.

EAO No. 368 (1997) – A waiver of a seminar fee is not an officeholder contribution for purposes of title 15 of the Election Code nor is it a benefit for purposes of section 36.08 of the Penal Code if the fee would otherwise be reimbursable from county funds.

EAO No. 369 (1997) – A member of the Agriculture Resources Protection Authority (ARPA) is not, by virtue of his or her ARPA membership, required to file a personal financial disclosure statement under chapter 572 of the Government Code.

EAO No. 370 (1997) – A person who is required to file a personal financial disclosure statement under chapter 572 of the Government Code and who speaks at an event that includes a meal for the speaker and the audience is not required to report the meal on Part XI of the financial disclosure statement form.

EAO No. 371 (1997) – A legislator may not represent a person for compensation before a state agency in the executive branch unless the representation (1) is made in a proceeding that is adversary in nature or in another public hearing that is a matter of record or (2) involves only ministerial acts on the part of the agency. Beginning on September 1, 1997, a legislator representing a person for compensation before a state agency will be required to disclose to the agency the fact that the legislator is receiving compensation for the representation.

A legislator who represents a person for compensation before an executive state agency must report the name of the agency, the name of the person represented, and the category of the amount of compensation on his or her personal financial statement.

EAO No. 372 (1997) – Penal Code section 39.02 does not require state agencies to adopt policies absolutely prohibiting any personal use of telephones or computer services as long as the state is reimbursed for any direct costs incurred. In adopting policies about the use of agency equipment, agencies should make sure that any permissible personal use does not result in direct costs paid by the state and does not impede agency functions. Agency policies should also ensure that state resources are not used for private commercial purposes and that only incidental amounts of employee time – time periods comparable to reasonable coffee breaks during the day – are used to attend to personal matters.

EAO No. 373 (1997) – Because the members of the board and the executive director of the Texas National Research Laboratory Commission will have no authority in 1998 and subsequent years, they will not be required to file the personal financial statement after 1997.

EAO No. 374 (1997) – A legislator should not engage in business activities that create a conflict or the appearance of a conflict between the legislator’s responsibilities as a public servant and the legislator’s private contractual obligations.

Although the laws interpreted by the Texas Ethics Commission do not contain a general prohibition against legislators contracting to provide services for public housing authorities, certain provisions in the Penal Code and in Chapter 572 of the Government Code might prohibit such a contract in some circumstances.

EAO No. 375 (1997) – A candidate or officeholder may use political contributions to pay interest to himself or herself at a commercially reasonable rate in connection with political expenditures made from the candidate’s or officeholder’s personal funds if the candidate or officeholder properly reports the political expenditures from personal funds and indicates on the report that he or she intends to pay reimbursement with interest. The report must also set out the rate at which the candidate or officeholder will pay himself or herself interest.

EAO No. 376 (1997) – If the information in a political advertising disclosure statement was correct when the political advertising was printed or published, the political advertising complies with Election Code section 255.001.

A campaign communication supporting an individual who is not an incumbent in the office sought does not comply with Election Code section 255.006(b) if it identifies the office sought but does not use the word "for."

EAO No. 377 (1997) – A group that makes contributions for the use of university academic departments is not making expenditures that count toward lobby registration under Government Code section 305.003(a)(1) as long as the group does not earmark the contributions to be used for an expenditure or expenditures described in Government Code section 305.006(b).

An entity that holds and disburses funds used for an expenditure or expenditures described in Government Code section 305.006(b) is not "making expenditures" for purposes of Government Code section 305.003(a)(1) as long as the group’s only discretion in regard to disbursement of the funds is to ensure that the funds are used to support a university.

EAO No. 378 (1997) – A newly-elected or re-elected legislator may use political contributions to pay travel expenses for his or her spouse to attend the opening ceremony of the legislature.

A legislator may not use political contributions to pay expenses associated with the attendance of the legislator’s spouse at Legislative Ladies functions.

A member of the legislature may not use political contributions to pay for his or her spouse to attend a legislative conference if the spouse is attending merely to participate in social activities provided for spouses. A member of the legislature may use political contributions to pay for his or her spouse to attend a legislative conference if the spouse attends the conference to participate in the substantive programs offered at the conference in order to assist the legislator in the performance of legislative duties or activities.

EAO No. 379 (1997) – A labor organization would be making a political contribution to a political committee if it honored a request from its members to transfer a portion of a member’s required membership dues to the political committee.

Any transfer of funds from labor organization property to a political committee may be used only for purposes permitted by Election Code section 253.100.

Interest earned on money belonging to a labor organization can be used for political committee purposes only to the extent permitted by Election Code section 253.100.

EAO No. 380 (1997) – The disclosure information required by Election Code section 255.001 is not required on an envelope that is used to transmit political advertising provided that the political advertising in the envelope complies with the requirements of Election Code section 255.001.

EAO No. 381 (1997) – The chief executive or administrative officer of a state agency is the individual in charge of the day-to-day operations of the agency.

If the individual in charge of the day-to-day operations of an agency is an appointed officer and is therefore excluded from the statutory definition of "executive head of a state agency" in Government Code section 572.002(5), there is no "executive head" of that agency for purposes of Government Code chapter 572.

EAO No. 382 (1997) – A pledge to transfer money to a political committee for political purposes is a political contribution. The date of the contribution is the date the pledge is accepted.

An officeholder who is also a candidate, as that term is defined in Election Code section 251.001(1), is subject to the restrictions in Election Code section 253.1611(d) applicable to candidates as well as those applicable to officeholders.

The amount of a political contribution is not reduced by the amount of any consideration received in exchange for the contribution.

EAO No. 383 (1997) – A Texas limited liability company is subject to the restrictions in Election Code chapter 253, subchapter D, if it engages in a type of business listed in Election Code section 253.093 or if it is owned, in whole or in part, by an entity subject to the restrictions in Election Code chapter 253, subchapter D.

A Delaware limited liability company is subject to the restrictions in Election Code chapter 253, subchapter D, if it engages in a type of business listed in Election Code section 253.093 or if it is owned, in whole or in part, by an entity subject to the restrictions in Election Code chapter 253, subchapter D.

EAO No. 384 (1997) – An entity established by or for a legislative caucus to conduct research or education is itself a legislative caucus if the research or education is a "caucus activity." A "caucus activity" is an activity that supports the policy development and interests that the members of the establishing caucus hold in common.

EAO No. 385 (1997) – The distribution of the brochure that is the subject of this opinion request would not violate Election Code section 255.006(b).

EAO No. 386 (1997) – The use of state computers or personnel to prepare campaign reports for officeholders would be a misuse of government property.

EAO No. 387 (1997) – Section 255.001 of the Election Code does not require that wooden nickels printed with a candidate’s political logo include a political advertising disclosure statement.


1998 Opinions

EAO No. 388 (1998) – Members of the Statewide Health Coordinating Council are required to file personal financial disclosure statements.

EAO No. 389 (1998) – A candidate’s use of political contributions to repay a bank loan does not count toward the limit on reimbursement set out in Election Code section 253.162.

EAO No. 390 (1998) – Campaign balloons are not required to contain the disclosure statement described in Election Code section 255.001.

A candidate is not required to report his use in a current campaign of materials paid for and reported in connection with a previous campaign.

EAO No. 391 (1998) – A candidate or officeholder may correct a report filed before September 12, 1997, to indicate an intent to reimburse himself or herself with interest for political expenditures from personal funds, as long as the political expenditures from personal funds and the intention to seek reimbursement for the expenditures were themselves timely reported.

Although the Election Code does not prohibit the acceptance of a political contribution from a city, the Texas Constitution may prohibit the city from making such a contribution.

EAO No. 392 (1998) – Income received as a pension or from a retirement plan associated with past occupational activity is not required to be reported as a "source of occupational income" on a personal financial disclosure statement. Information about retirement funds or income may, however, be reportable under some other category on the personal financial disclosure statement.

In describing real property on a personal financial disclosure statement, providing a street address and the city, county, and state where the real property is located is an adequate alternative to providing the name of the county where the real property is located and the number of lots or acres.

EAO No. 393 (1998) – The restrictions in Election Code section 253.161 do not apply to the use of political contributions to pay debts incurred in connection with elections that took place before June 16, 1995.

EAO No. 394 (1998) – A political committee must file a campaign treasurer appointment before it accepts more than $500 in political contributions or makes or authorizes more than $500 in political expenditures. All political contributions to and political expenditures by a political committee count toward these thresholds, regardless of when made. Membership dues paid to support a general-purpose committee are political contributions to the committee.

EAO No. 395 (1998) – A state employee’s incidental use of state telephones to place long-distance personal calls is not a misapplication of government resources as long as the calls do not result in any charges to the state.

EAO No. 396 (1998) – A contribution from a corporation to a county or district clerk that is intended to defray the clerk’s costs of running for an elective position with an association of county or district clerks is a prohibited "officeholder contribution" unless the costs are reimbursable with public money.

For purposes of Penal Code section 36.08(d), a county or district clerk exercises discretion in regard to purchasing matters by making recommendations to the commissioners court even if the commissioners court makes the final decisions about purchasing matters.

EAO No. 397 (1998) – Separate contracts are separate "matters" for purposes of the revolving door provision in Government Code section 572.054(b). The conclusion that a specific work activity constitutes "participation in" one matter, however, does not necessarily preclude the conclusion that the same work also constitutes "participation in" another matter.

EAO No. 398 (1998) – To avoid the prohibition on corporate campaign contributions it is critical that the terms of a contract between a corporation and a candidate be typical of the terms the corporation offers to political and non-political customers.

EAO No. 399 (1998) – An individual is a candidate as long as the individual has a campaign treasurer appointment on file. An individual who has filed a final report (and has not reappointed a campaign treasurer) is not a candidate.

Election Code section 253.1611 does not apply to a former judicial candidate.

EAO No. 400 (1998) – A candidate who uses personal funds to make payments on a campaign loan is making a political expenditure from personal funds. This means that a candidate who properly reports such payments may use political contributions to reimburse himself for the payments, subject to any applicable limit on reimbursement.

EAO No. 401 (1998) – A state officer is not required to report the provision of transportation, meals, and lodging in connection with a campaign speech for someone else under Government Code section 572.023(b)(11) if the candidate on whose behalf the state officer makes the campaign speech is required to report the expenditures on a campaign finance report.

EAO No. 402 (1998) – The requirement to file an annual personal financial disclosure statement applies to the executive head of an institution that is identified in Education Code section 61.003(6) as an "other agency of higher education."

EAO No. 403 (1998) – A general-purpose political committee is not required to file pre-election reports if its only reportable activity during the period covered by the pre-election reports is to make a contribution in support of a candidate who does not have an opponent whose name is to appear on the ballot in the election.

EAO No. 404 (1998) – A political committee may use its name in the political advertising disclosure statement required by Election Code section 255.001 even if the committee has not yet filed a campaign treasurer appointment.

EAO No. 405 (1998) – A candidate or officeholder may not use political contributions to pay for family recreation or entertainment.

EAO No. 406 (1998) – A judicial candidate named in June to fill a vacancy in a nomination may accept political contributions until 120 days after the November general election, regardless of whether the candidate has an opponent in the November election.

EAO No. 407 (1998) – A legislator may use political contributions to rent a tuxedo for the legislative gala on the eve of the first day of a regular legislative session.

A legislator may use political contributions to rent a tuxedo for attendance at a nonprofit charity event if the legislator attends the event as an activity of a public officeholder.

EAO No. 408 (1998) – A legislator is not subject to a general prohibition on employment by a law firm or by an accounting and investment firm as long as the legislator is performing the work in a capacity other than as a legislator and as long as the legislator’s compensation reflects the actual value of the work performed. Specific circumstances could arise, however, in which such employment might not be in keeping with the standards of conduct in Government Code section 572.051.

EAO No. 409 (1998) – A general-purpose political committee may accept corporate contributions earmarked for a scholarship fund as long as the committee’s expenditures in connection with the scholarship fund are not made in connection with a campaign for elective office or on a measure or for officeholder purposes.


1999 Opinions

EAO No. 410 (1999) – A member of the Texas Real Estate Commission ("TREC") should not teach courses that satisfy TREC requirements for prospective or current licensees.

EAO No. 411 (1999) – A member of the legislature may not take receipt of a check during the moratorium period set out in Election Code section 253.034(a) in a situation in which the check is intended to replace an invalid check that was delivered before the moratorium began.

EAO No. 412 (1999) – A member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board who is also a nonvoting member of the advisory board of a nonprofit entity should disclose his position with the nonprofit entity and recuse himself from any Coordinating Board decision regarding acceptance of a donation of land from the nonprofit entity or regarding approval of an agreement between the nonprofit entity and a state university.

EAO No. 413 (1999) – A retired judge who still has a campaign treasurer appointment on file is subject to the restriction in Election Code section 253.1611 and may not contribute more than $100 a year to any other candidate or to any officeholder. A retired judge who has terminated his or her campaign treasurer appointment is no longer a candidate and is not subject to the restriction in section 253.1611.

EAO No. 414 (1999) – The restrictions in Election Code section 253.153 do not apply to contributions made to a candidate to cover expenses in connection with an unsuccessful 1998 race for a nonjudicial office, even if the candidate currently holds one of the judicial offices listed in Election Code section 253.151.

EAO No. 415 (1999) – A reception to honor a state officer is a "gift" for purposes of Government Code section 572.023(b)(7) and is reportable on the state officer's personal financial statement unless an exception provided by section 572.023(b)(7) applies.

EAO No. 416 (1999) – The laws under the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission do not contain a general prohibition on outside work by legislative employees. There are, however, provisions under the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission that are relevant to questions about outside work by state employees. Gov't Code § 572.051 (standards of conduct); Penal Code §§ 36.07 (honorarium prohibition), 36.08 (gift prohibitions), 36.10 (exceptions to gift prohibitions). In addition, constitutional provisions or legislative rules may be relevant to whether outside employment by a legislative employee is permissible.

EAO No. 417 (1999) – A former elected county officeholder may use surplus political contributions to pay expenses incurred in connection with duties or activities as a member of the board of a political subdivision.

EAO No. 418 (1999) – ** Opinion History** A district judge may use political contributions raised in connection with his candidacy for district judge to make expenditures in connection with a candidacy for justice of a court of appeals.

The restrictions in Election Code section 253.1611 do not apply to transfers between a judicial candidate or officeholder and a specific-purpose political committee supporting the candidate or officeholder. Nor do the restrictions apply to transfers between two specific-purpose political committees supporting the same individual as a candidate or officeholder.

A district judge who has filed a campaign treasurer appointment with the Ethics Commission is required to file reports of contributions and expenditures with the Ethics Commission and is not required to file with the local filing authority.

EAO No. 419 (1999) – A former employee of a regulatory agency would not violate Government Code section 572.054(b) by working on a project funded by that agency in the circumstances described in this opinion.

EAO No. 420 (1999) – Candidates seeking election to a district judgeship that will come into existence on September 1, 2000, may begin accepting political contributions on February 4, 2000.

EAO No. 421 (1999) – A member of the legislature may not solicit or accept a gift for his or her child unless one of the exceptions in section 36.10 of the Penal Code applies to the gift. A member of the legislature may not solicit or accept a gift for his or her child from a lobbyist unless the gift is permissible both under chapter 36 of the Penal Code and under the lobby law.

EAO No. 422 (1999) – A candidate may appoint any individual as his or her campaign treasurer, including a minor. This rule does not apply to the campaign treasurer of a political committee.

EAO No. 423 (1999) – A legislator may use political contributions to pay the costs of membership in an organization that helps its members acquire leadership skills if the legislator's primary purpose in joining the organization is to facilitate legislative work.

EAO No. 424 (1999) – Section 255.001 of the Election Code does not require that small candy wrappers imprinted with a candidate's political slogan include a political advertising disclosure statement.

Part I (1992 to 1994) | Part III (2000 to 2005) | Part IV (2006 to 2010) | Part V (2011 to present)

Last Revision: October 27, 2014

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