Cumulative Digest of Ethics Advisory Opinions
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) – **Overruled, Modified, Clarified, or Superseded** 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.
EAO No. 515 (2014) – A registrant must disclose in a registration the full name and address of a candidate or officeholder who uses political contributions to compensate or reimburse the registrant for services rendered by the registrant. A registrant must also disclose the full name and address of a candidate or officeholder who uses political contributions to compensate or reimburse an entity that employs or hires the registrant to render services for the candidate or officeholder. A registrant is not required to disclose compensation or reimbursement received by an entity for services rendered by someone other than the registrant or a person acting as an agent of the registrant.
EAO No. 516 (2014) – A city may not use its resources to create or maintain political advertising bearing the name of a political committee pursuant to the “adopt-a-park” program described in this opinion.
EAO No. 517 (2014) – A diagnostic blood test and analysis of the results provided to a member of the legislative or executive branch with the intent to influence legislation or administrative action constitutes a gift for purposes of the lobby law. Expenditures made by a registrant, or by an entity whose expenditures are properly reported by an individual registrant, incurred in administering the test are disclosed as gifts on a lobby activities report.
EAO No. 518 (2014) – A group that does not accept or intend to accept political contributions and does not use or intend to use more than 20 percent of its funds and other resources to make political expenditures is not a political committee.
EAO No. 519 (2014) – Title 15 of the Election Code does not prohibit a candidate from accepting an in-kind political contribution from an out-of-state political committee if the contribution is made from a permissible source and the candidate properly complies with the applicable disclosure requirements.
EAO No. 520 (2014) – An elected board member of an agency in the executive branch of state government may accept tuition, food, transportation, or lodging only if acceptance is not prohibited under the applicable laws.
EAO No. 521 (2014) –
A specific-purpose committee may use political contributions to purchase tickets to entertainment
events for a candidate when the primary purpose for the candidate’s attendance is to build
relationships with donors or potential donors or is in connection with a specific campaign event.
A specific-purpose committee may use political contributions to purchase tickets to entertainment events for an officeholder when the primary purpose for the officeholder’s attendance is to appear or participate at the event in his or her official capacity as an officeholder.
EAO No. 522 (2014) – The work time of state employees is a thing of value belonging to the state and may not be misused by state employees or members of the legislature. The use of a legislative employee’s work time for purely personal activities would not further a state purpose and would constitute a misuse. The legislature is the appropriate body for determining whether, subject to constitutional limitations, a particular use of legislative resources is permissible.
EAO No. 523 (2014) – 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 a bridge replacement project as described in this opinion unless the services would include a review or analysis of a matter in which the former employee participated as an employee of the agency.
EAO No. 524 (2015) – Under the facts as they are presented in this opinion, a legislator is not prohibited from receiving proceeds from the sales of a book he co-authored or using the proceeds to pay for his out-of-pocket expenses or donate to a charity.
EAO No. 525 (2015) – It is permissible for a member of the legislature who does not ordinarily reside in Travis County to use political contributions to pay the mandatory monthly assessments adopted by the homeowners association for a residence in Austin that the member owns to the extent that the residence is used for political purposes.
EAO No. 526 (2015) – 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 distribute 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. 527 (2015) – A general-purpose committee may not use political contributions accepted from a corporation for its own administration to make a contribution to a political party for the party’s administrative costs.
EAO No. 528 (2015) – Title 15 does not prohibit a general-purpose committee from using a political contribution that was legally given and accepted from a corporation, for the purpose of financing the establishment or administration of the committee, to compensate an individual lobbyist for providing lobbying services to a corporation. Assuming that the contributions to the committee were given for the specific purpose of financing the committee’s administrative expenses, and that the funds were not provided to the committee for the purpose of compensating a lobbyist, the committee would not be required to register solely by using the contributions to compensate the lobbyist.
EAO No. 529 (2015) – Section 305.027 of the Government Code requires legislative advertising to indicate the name of an individual who personally enters into a contract on behalf of a nonprofit corporation to broadcast the advertising, in addition to the name of the corporation. An individual or corporation who knowingly enters into such a contract commits a violation if the advertising does not include the required disclosure.
EAO No. 530 (2015) – A member appointed to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Oversight Committee is not “appointed for a term of office” and is not an “appointed officer” for purposes of chapter 572 of the Government Code. Accordingly, a member appointed to the agency is not a “state officer” and is not required to file a personal financial statement with the commission or subject to the standards of conduct provided by section 572.051 or certain provisions under the “revolving door” law applicable to state officers under section 572.054(b).
EAO No. 531 (2015) – 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. 532 (2015) – An officer or employee of a political subdivision may not use letterhead that is created by city staff or with city resources, and that contains the city’s logo and slogan that were designed with city funds, to write and distribute political advertising.
EAO No. 533 (2015) – Free legal services provided by an attorney to a judge to defend a lawsuit arising from the judge’s activities as a candidate are a campaign contribution subject to the restrictions under title 15 of the Election Code and section 36.08 of the Penal Code. Legal services provided to a judge by an attorney on a contingent fee basis would not be a political contribution or a prohibited benefit to the judge if the services are provided pursuant to a binding contract described in this opinion.
EAO No. 534 (2015) – An employee of a state regulatory agency should not accept from a person regulated by the agency a payment in the form of a subscription fee to operate a website as described in this opinion.