Uses of Political Contributions Considered in Advisory Opinions
Issued by the Texas Ethics Commission

The Texas Ethics Commission has issued advisory opinions considering specific situations regarding the personal use of political contributions restriction.  Below is a brief description of the situations considered in the advisory opinions.  If your situation is not on the list, do not assume that it is permissible.  If in doubt, call the Ethics Commission Legal Division at 512-463-5800.

Impermissible Use of Contributions
 
Subject
EAO
 
Laundry and dry cleaning expenses (considers IRS standard)
 
Judge's expenses of maintaining residence in city in which court sits; commuting expenses
 
Certain investments, such as the purchase of stock primarily to support a family business or the purchase of an investment instrument (i.e., a work of art) that is displayed in the candidate/officeholder's home; loan of political
funds, especially to family
 
Meals in Austin by legislator - not connected with state business
 
Governor's and family's travel on personal trip
 
Expenses of defending lawsuits brought in private professional capacity
 
Expenses of legislator's spouse for social events
 
Family recreation or entertainment
 
Costs attributable to personal use of asset (must apportion car cost)
 
A license fee unless the license is required for the office held or sought
 
Contributions accepted as municipal court judge to campaign for office of statutory county court judge
Contribution to a trust fund established for the benefit of an individual to pay for medical needs
 
Entertainment event tickets for spouse and dependent children if primary purpose is to build relationships with donors or potential donors
 521
     
Permissible Use of Contributions
  Subject EAO
 
Purchase electronic equipment for official use in courtroom or judge's chambers
 
Donation of surplus political contributions to a charity; uses set out in § 254.204, Election Code (relating to Disposition of Unexpended Contributions)
  47
 
Utility bills for legislator's Austin residence
 
Legal expenses in defending a lawsuit to collect campaign loan
 105
 
Spouse traveling to campaign for candidate or in connection with officeholder duties
 111
 
If political asset used for personal use, must reimburse based on reasonable value of personal use
 116
 
Operate and maintain personal asset (i.e. plane) for campaign or officeholder purposes
 129
 
Judge's moving expenses from home city to city in which court sits
 133
 
Donation to a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization serving physically, mentally, and developmentally challenged citizens (officeholder employed in non-executive position by organization, family member served by organization)
 149
 
Political contributions accepted before 9-1-83 not subject to personal use prohibition
 151
 
Spanish lessons, district with large Hispanic population
 157
 
Surplus funds of deceased officeholder contributed to candidate
 169
 
Purchase, prepare, and mail Christmas cards to constituents
 190
 
Membership in FOI Foundation, holiday lunch and decor, donation to private school fundraiser, and charity luncheons may be officeholder expenses
 195
 
Portrait of retiring county judge for county courthouse
 199
 
Payment of fine for late Title 15 filing
 206
 
Purchase, prepare, and mail congratulatory letters —  birth, graduation
 209
 
Expenses in connection with sworn complaint alleging Title 15 violation
 219
 
Responding to grievance filed with State Bar regarding conduct as candidate
 222
 
Investments or loans made with political funds — fact question in each case
 224
 
Furniture for legislator's residence in Austin
 237
 
Meals in Austin by legislator —  connected with state business
 241
 
Legislator business and personal phone calls to district (overrules EAO 78)
 241
 
Rent and phone for legislator's Austin residence
 241
 
Legislator's gas, parking, tips, and tolls connected with state business
 241
 
Small gifts (i.e., flags or souvenirs) for volunteers or constituents
 241
 
Mobile phone for candidate or officeholder purposes
 241
 
An unrestricted donation by Governor to state treasury
 244
 
Judge's payment of state bar dues if office requires being licensed
 245
 
Judge's payment to assist in preparation of thesis for masters of law in judicial process
  Legislator's payments on condo purchased pre-1992; personal use restrictions apply proportionately to asset purchased in part with political contributions
 248
 
Legislator's transportation to and from Austin for legislative purposes
 249
 
Salary supplements for state employees (to state for offset or directly to employee)
 254
 
Judge's attendance at legal seminar related to judge's duties of office
 267
 
Waiver of membership fee to unincorporated private club —  cannot be used for personal purposes
 268
 
If political asset (i.e., airplane) used for personal use, must reimburse based on reasonable value of personal use
 269
 
Expenses of defending lawsuit filed because of status as a judge
 276
 
Judge's payment from surplus political contributions for continuing legal education
 279
 
Judge's payment for social event sponsored by a bar association if connected with candidate or officeholder activities
 284
 
Purchase furnishings and decorations for Capitol office
 296
 
Legal expenses for investigation of public corruption
 310
 
Damage to property caused while discharging official duties
 313
 
Victory party in conjunction with charity golf tournament
 314
 
Transportation and hotel expenses to attend Congressman's swearing-in ceremony in connection with officeholder or candidate activities (intent)
 356
 
Expenses to lease and furnish residence in district for legislative staff member who lives in Austin
 359
 
Reimbursement with interest allowed for political expenditure from personal funds (see also EAO 391)
 375
 
Travel expenses incurred by legislator's spouse to attend swearing-in ceremony
 378
 
Attendance of spouse at legislative conference to assist legislator in officeholder activities
 378
 
Can correct report filed before 9-12-97 to show intent to reimburse with interest (see also EAO 375)
 391
 
Tuxedo rental by legislator for legislative gala or nonprofit charity event attended as legislator
 407
 
Donation of surplus political contributions by former elected county officeholder to county appraisal district where officeholder now holds public office
 417
 
Contributions accepted as district court judge to campaign for office of court of appeals justice
 418
 
Membership costs in a nonprofit organization, when membership benefits are primarily connected with officeholder activities
 423
 
Asset purchase, operation, and maintenance (overrules EAO 68)
 430
 
Defense against charges of judicial misconduct
 433
 
Payment to niece or nephew for campaign work
 434
 
Donation of unexpended political contribution to any generally recognized affiliate of former
officeholder's political party
 437
 
Federal judge's payment of expenditure made in connection with federal office from contributions accepted as Texas judicial candidate or officeholder
 445
 
Entertainment in connection with the position of US Ambassador to a foreign country (former candidate/officeholder)
 453
 
Furnishings for official residence and expenses for holiday staff party in connection with the position of US Ambassador to a foreign country (former candidate/officeholder)
 458
 
Former elected officeholder's payment from surplus political contributions for expenditure made in connection with current non-elected position at state agency
 
Payment by a former candidate and former officeholder to pay legal expenses incurred in connection with a defamation lawsuit he brought in his status as a candidate
 498
 
Payment by an officeholder to reimburse an individual for expenses incurred due to errors made by an officeholder's office
 
Entertainment event tickets if primary purpose is to build relationships with donors or potential donors or is in connection with specific campaign event
 521
 
Entertainment event tickets for officeholder if primary purpose is to appear or participate as officeholder
 521
 
Entertainment event tickets for spouse and dependent children if they substantially participate by assisting with duties and activities as officeholder
 521

 

Last Revision: January 23, 2012

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