Cumulative Digest of Ethics Advisory Opinions
EAO No. 467 (2006) – The lobby law does not prohibit a corporation from making the expenditures for a lobbyist’s own transportation, lobbyist lodging, and food and beverages to attend a political fundraiser. If the expenditures were not made with the intent that they be used in connection with a campaign for an elective office or made with the intent to assist an elective officeholder, they are not regulated by title 15 of the Election Code. A corporation may not pay a lobbyist’s entry fee to the golf tournament. The fact that the corporate employee while on corporate time makes the expenditures instead of the corporation making the expenditures does not change the result to the questions discussed above.
EAO No. 468 (2006) – ** ** An expenditure made by a corporation to deliver a political contribution in the form of a check from a general-purpose political committee to a candidate would constitute an administrative expenditure if the delivery originates and is completed in the state of Texas.
EAO No. 469 (2006) – An individual formerly employed by a state regulatory agency who, while an employee for the state agency testified as an expert on the state agency’s rules in a lawsuit to which the state of Texas was not a party, may represent a litigant in that lawsuit.
EAO No. 470 (2006) – The revolving door provision in section 572.054(b) of the Government Code does not prohibit a former assistant general counsel for a state agency from representing a person in a case that was opened while the former assistant general counsel was an employee for the agency if as a state employee she did not personally participate in the case and if the case was not within her official responsibility.
EAO No. 471 (2006) – Whether the provision of an opportunity to address a corporation’s membership constitutes a political contribution depends on the intent with which the opportunity is provided. Intent is determined by facts, including the level of involvement of the officeholder to whom the opportunity is provided.
EAO No. 472 (2006) – The limits on contributions, expenditures, and reimbursement of personal funds set by the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act may be suspended only by an order issued by the executive director of the Texas Ethics Commission. The effective date of an order suspending those limits is the date of the filing of the report that discloses that the expenditure limits were exceeded.
EAO No. 473 (2006) – ** ** The description of a gift of cash or cash equivalent that is reportable under section 572.023(b)(7) of the Government Code is not required to include the value of the gift.
EAO No. 474 (2006) – Whether the conduct described in the request letter constitutes legislative bribery under chapter 302 of the Government Code depends on all the relevant facts. It is never our role in opinions to resolve fact issues.
EAO No. 475 (2007) – The making of charitable contributions according to the proposed solicitation program is not a permissible solicitation expense for purposes of section 253.100(b) of the Election Code.
EAO No. 476 (2007) – Whether section 255.003 of the Election Code prohibits the spending of city funds for a city council member's newsletter.
EAO No. 477 (2007) – A former employee of a regulatory agency would not violate Government Code section 572.054(b) by working on a private company’s bid for an agency contract that utilizes the standard specifications as described in this request that the requestor participated in writing as an agency employee.
EAO No. 478 (2008) – The use of political contributions to pay a premium of a “judge’s claims made professional liability insurance policy” that only covers expenses incurred in connection with claims or lawsuits brought against a judge in his official capacity as a public officeholder does not constitute a personal use.
EAO No. 479 (2008) – Placing a candidate on notice that a general-purpose committee will base its decision on whether or not to support the candidate on the candidate’s responses to the specific questions listed above would constitute legislative bribery under Section 302.032 of the Government Code. Whether a candidate has been placed on such notice is a fact question and, as we have stated in previous opinions, an advisory opinion cannot resolve fact issues.
The legal value of an Ethics Advisory Opinion is to provide a defense to prosecution for activities that, in the opinion of the Ethics Commission, are not in violation of the laws under the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission. We cannot provide that type of defense in this request because we cannot anticipate the different circumstances in which the specific questions listed above may be asked.
EAO No. 480 (2008) - Title 15 of the Election Code does not prohibit an officeholder from using political contributions to compensate a county employee for vacation time that the employee was unable to take due to carrying out his or her county responsibilities on assignments connected with the activities of the officeholder’s office. The officeholder may use personal funds to make the payment to compensate the employee for the lost vacation time and may seek reimbursement from political contributions provided that the expenditure from personal funds is reported as required by title 15 of the Election Code. The court employee may accept the compensation at issue under section 36.10(a)(2) of the Penal Code.
EAO No. 481 (2008) - A candidate for speaker of the house of representatives may expend campaign funds to employ the services of a professional fundraiser provided that the services and additional funds raised are used only for the candidate’s campaign for speaker in accordance with chapter 302 of the Government Code.
EAO No. 482 (2008) - The provision of transportation and lodging does not constitute an expenditure for purposes of Chapter 305 of the Government Code if prepayment in full is made by the recipient to the person providing the transportation and lodging. The fair market value is the standard for determining the amount of prepayment and any reasonable method for determining the fair market value must factor in the value of equivalent transportation and lodging in an arm’s length transaction.
EAO No. 483 (2009) – Under the circumstances described in this opinion, an officeholder may not use political contributions to contribute to a trust fund established for the benefit of an individual for paying that individual's medical and other supplemental needs because such a use would constitute a personal use of political contributions in violation of section 253.035(a) of the Election Code.
EAO No. 484 (2009) – ** Withdrawn by Commission on December 7, 2010 ** Anytime an officeholder benefits from money spent by a corporation or labor organization, a fact question arises as to whether the corporation has given a thing of value to the officeholder for purposes of one of the laws under the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction. Pursuant to Title 15 of the Election Code, an elected officeholder may not accept transportation, meals, and lodging from a corporation or labor organization in return for addressing an audience or participating in a seminar if the officeholder’s services are in connection with his or her duties or activities as an officeholder. This advisory opinion is intended to provide guidance for future activity and not intended to criminalize past activity.
EAO No. 485 (2009) – As amended by House Bill No. 2525, section 253.100(d)(5) of the Election Code does not prohibit a corporation from making expenditures to solicit political contributions from its employees or the families of its employees to a general-purpose committee that it assists under section 253.100(a). As provided by section 253.100(b) of the Election Code, a corporation may make political expenditures to finance the solicitation of political contributions to a general-purpose committee assisted under section 253.100(a) from the stockholders, employees, or families of stockholders or employees of one or more corporations.
EAO No. 486 (2009) – Section 305.022, as amended by HB 3445, does not prohibit a person from retaining, employing, or compensating another or rendering services if the person is obligated to perform such activity pursuant to a contract that was legally binding prior to September 1, 2009. All reporting requirements under chapter 305 of the Government Code, including section 305.022 as amended by HB 3445, would also apply in such circumstances.
EAO No. 487 (2009) – For purposes of section 255.003 of the Election Code, the attached report is not “political advertising,” and, therefore, may be posted on a city’s Internet website unless an officer or employee of the city authorizing such posting knows that the report contains false information.
EAO No. 488 (2010) – For purposes of section 255.003 of the Election Code, the attached communication is not “political advertising,” and, therefore, may be included in a city newsletter that is paid for with public funds unless an officer or employee of the city authorizing such inclusion knows that the communication contains false information.
EAO No. 489 (2010) – ** ** For the reasons stated in this opinion, the Texas Ethics Commission cannot enforce sections 253.094 or 253.002 of the Election Code to prohibit a corporation or labor organization from making a direct campaign expenditure. In addition, the Texas Ethics Commission cannot enforce section 253.002 of the Election Code to prohibit a person from making a direct campaign expenditure. Citizens United does not, however, impede us from continuing to enforce the restrictions on corporations or labor organizations making political contributions to candidates or officeholders. Furthermore, Citizens United does not impede us from continuing to enforce the political advertising disclosure requirements under chapter 255 of the Election Code. In addition, title 15 requires a corporation, labor organization, or other person that makes one or more direct campaign expenditures from its own property in connection with an election of a candidate to comply with the reporting requirements that apply to an individual as set out in section 253.062 of the Election Code.
EAO No. 490 (2010) – For purposes of section 255.003 of the Election Code, the attached pamphlet is not "political advertising" and, therefore, public funds may be used to publish it unless an officer or employee of the city authorizing such use of public funds knows that the pamphlet contains false information.
EAO No. 491 (2010) – The advertisement proposed by the requestor of this advisory opinion may comply with the disclosure requirement under section 255.001(a) of the Election Code if either: 1) the full disclosure statement appears on the face of the advertisement or, in the alternative, 2) a direct link to another Internet landing page that displays the full disclosure statement appears on the face of the advertisement and the direct link contains the words "political advertising," "pol ad," or another recognizable abbreviation. (In other words, the link must take the Internet user directly to the page that contains the full disclosure statement.) If the advertisement includes a direct link in order to comply with the disclosure requirement, the Internet landing page to which the direct link refers must be operational and freely accessible during the time the advertisement is visible on the social networking website.
EAO No. 492 (2010) – A member of the Texas Board of Professional Land Surveying should not serve as an expert witness to testify on whether a person had committed a violation of laws, rules, or standards within the jurisdiction of the board.
EAO No. 493 (2010) – An expenditure made by a person to obtain a refund of money previously paid by the person to a service provider in connection with the person’s campaign is a campaign expenditure. The person must therefore maintain an active campaign treasurer appointment when the expenditure is made. A person is not required to maintain an active campaign treasurer appointment to receive a refund of personal funds used to make a campaign expenditure.
EAO No. 494 (2010) – For purposes of section 255.003 of the Election Code, the attached communications are not “political advertising” and, therefore, public funds may be used to publish the communications unless an officer or employee of the city authorizing such use of public funds knows that the communications contain false information.
EAO No. 495 (2010) – For purposes of sections 251.001(4) and 251.001(9) of the Election Code, the phrase “reimbursable with public money” means the governmental body has the authority to reimburse an officeholder for an expense and, at the time the expense is incurred, allows the reimbursement of the particular category of expense, such as continuing legal education. The phrase does not require the governmental body to actually reimburse the expense or to have funds available for such reimbursement at the time the expense is incurred.
EAO No. 496 (2011) – Section 572.054(b) of the Government Code does not prohibit a former employee of the Texas Department of Transportation from performing services related to road projects as described in this opinion.
EAO No. 497 (2011) – A general-purpose political committee may accept contributions from corporations to defray expenses incurred in defending against the defamation lawsuits described in this request filed against the committee and its campaign treasurer. Such contributions must be disclosed on the committee's campaign finance reports. This conclusion is specifically limited to the stipulated facts set out herein.
EAO No. 498 (2011) – The use of political contributions by a former candidate for and former holder of a judicial office to pay legal expenses he incurred in connection with a defamation lawsuit he brought in his status as a candidate would not constitute a conversion of contributions to personal use under section 253.035 of the Election Code.
EAO No. 499 (2011) – If a person who is a former candidate for and former holder of a judicial office uses political contributions to pay a portion of the legal expenses for a defamation lawsuit described in this opinion, the amount of proceeds subject to the prohibition on personal use is proportional to the amount of legal expenses paid with political contributions. With respect to any proceeds from the lawsuit, the amount that is proportional to the amount of legal expenses that are paid with political contributions must be paid into the person’s political fund.
EAO No. 500 (2011) – Section 253.1611(d) of the Election Code does not prohibit an officeholder, during a calendar year in which the office held does not appear on the ballot, from using political contributions to make over $250 in political contributions to multiple political committees, provided that the total amount of the contributions to any single political committee does not exceed $250.
EAO No. 501 (2011) – For purposes of section 255.003 of the Election Code, the attached brochure is not political advertising and, therefore, public funds may be used to distribute the brochure unless an officer or employee of the county authorizing such use of public funds knows that the brochure contains false information.
EAO No. 502 (2011) – An officeholder may use political contributions to reimburse an individual for expenses incurred due to errors made by an officeholder’s office.
EAO No. 503 (2012) – The single fact that a corporation shares a vendor with a candidate would not constitute a campaign contribution by the corporation to the candidate. If a corporation uses its general treasury funds to make a campaign expenditure to a vendor for services to benefit a candidate, and if the vendor is concurrently providing campaign services to both the corporation and the candidate or if the vendor has previously provided campaign services to the candidate, the expenditure may constitute a prohibited contribution to the candidate. Whether the expenditure constitutes a prohibited contribution depends on whether the expenditure is made with the prior consent or approval of the candidate. An expenditure that is not made with the prior consent and approval of the candidate is not a campaign contribution to the candidate.
EAO No. 504 (2012) – For purposes of section 255.003 of the Election Code, the attached fact sheet is not political advertising and, therefore, public funds may be used to distribute the fact sheet unless an officer or employee of the city authorizing such use of public funds knows that the fact sheet contains false information.
EAO No. 505 (2012) – Section 571.140 of the Government Code does not prohibit a complainant or respondent from publicly disclosing or discussing a commission order that dismisses a complaint filed by the complainant. If a third party receives a copy of such a dismissal order from a complainant or respondent, the confidentiality provision does not prohibit the third party from possessing or discussing the order with other third parties.
EAO No. 506 (2012) – The refrigerator magnet at issue constitutes “political advertising” for purposes of section 255.003 of the Election Code.
EAO No. 507 (2012) – A former TxDOT employee may perform services on behalf of a private employer regarding a general engineering consultant contract to oversee a design-build contract if the services do not include a review or analysis of any highway design and construction provisions that are essential components of the design-build contract in which he was involved.
EAO No. 508 (2013) – The laws under the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction would not prohibit a legislator from solely receiving compensation from the organization under the stated facts, provided that the compensation reflects the actual value of the legislator’s services and not because of his status as a public servant; the services are provided in a capacity other than as a public servant and as long as the legislator’s official position is not a reason for his employment by the organization; the compensation is not received in exchange for an official act as a public servant; and the compensation is neither a prohibited political contribution nor a gift, loan, or other prohibited expenditure by a registered lobbyist.
A legislator should understand that the solicitation of contributions to an organization for which the legislator serves as executive director and from which the legislator receives compensation for services could be viewed as improper under certain circumstances. Accordingly, a legislator should use extreme caution when soliciting such contributions.
EAO No. 509 (2013) – A parent for-profit corporation that assists a general-purpose committee under section 253.100(a) may solicit political contributions to the committee from the employees of a subsidiary for-profit corporation that it wholly owns and operates.
EAO No. 510 (2013) – A general-purpose committee may accept political contributions by text message if the committee’s campaign treasurer is able to obtain the contributor information necessary to comply with the reporting requirements of Title 15 of the Election Code. A general-purpose committee would not be prohibited from accepting certain factored payments described in this opinion from a connection aggregator if the terms of the factoring agreement between the aggregator and the political committee reflect the usual and normal practice of the industry and are typical of the terms of agreements offered by the aggregator to other political and non-political customers.
EAO No. 511 (2013) – The Judicial Campaign Fairness Act would not prohibit a candidate for judicial office from merely accepting a person’s signature on a petition.
EAO No. 512 (2013) – A person who is entitled to serve as justice of the peace of a particular precinct in accordance with article 5, section 18(c) of the Texas Constitution "holds" that office for purposes of section 255.006 of the Election Code and may indicate in political advertising that he holds that office for the duration of his term.
EAO No. 513 (2013) – A principal campaign committee formed under federal law to support a candidate for federal congressional office located in Texas that makes political contributions to state or local candidates in Texas is not required to file a campaign treasurer appointment or campaign finance reports under title 15 of the Election Code. Additionally, the committee is not required to file with the Texas Ethics Commission a copy of each document required to be filed under federal law that is related to the candidacy of the federal candidate for which the committee is formed.
EAO No. 514 (2013) – A candidate who accepts a political contribution by credit card must report as a political contribution the full amount that the donor intends to contribute. If, based on a prior agreement with the credit card processing company, the candidate incurs a processing fee that is deducted from the contribution, the candidate must report the processing fee as a political expenditure.
Last Revision: November 4, 2013