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Limits on Use 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)  104
Judge's expenses of maintaining residence in city in which court sits; commuting expenses  133
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
 224
Meals in Austin by legislator - not connected with state business  241
Governor's and family's travel on personal trip  297
Expenses of defending lawsuits brought in private professional capacity  363
Expenses of legislator's spouse for social events  378
Family recreation or entertainment  405
Costs attributable to personal use of asset (must apportion car cost)  430
A license fee unless the license is required for the office held or sought  432
Contributions accepted as municipal court judge to campaign for office of statutory county court judge  439
Contribution to a trust fund established for the benefit of an individual to pay for medical needs  483
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   25
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   76
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  247
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  462
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  502
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
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 (member of the legislature)  525
Judicial officeholder’s travel expenses to teach at legal conference  536