PROPOSED RULES

At its May 17, 2017, meeting, the Texas Ethics Commission voted to propose amendments to Texas Ethics Commission Rules § 12.81.

At its March 30, 2017, meeting, the Texas Ethics Commission voted to propose amendments to Texas Ethics Commission Rules §§ 20.1 and 20.61, and new Commission Rules § 20.56.

The Commission invites public comment on the proposals.  A written statement should be emailed to public_comment@ethics.state.tx.us, or mailed or delivered to Seana Willing, Texas Ethics Commission, P.O. Box 12070, Austin, Texas 78711-2070, or sent by facsimile (FAX) to (512) 463-5777.  A person who wants to offer spoken comments to the Commission concerning a proposed rule may do so during the public comment period at any Commission meeting when the Commission considers the proposed rule.  Information concerning the time and location of Commission meetings is available at https://www.ethics.state.tx.us/tec/meetings.htm.

§ 12.81. Technical, Clerical or De Minimus Violations.
Text of Proposed Rule

§ 20.1. Definitions.
Text of Proposed Rule

§ 20.56. Expenditures Involving Consultants.
Text of Proposed Rule

§ 20.61. Purpose of Expenditure.
Text of Proposed Rule


§ 12.81. Technical, Clerical or De Minimus Violations.
Text of Proposed Rule

The proposed new language is indicated by underlined text.
The deleted language is indicated by [strikethrough] text.

Chapter 12. SWORN COMPLAINTS

Subchapter C. INVESTIGATION AND PRELIMINARY REVIEW

§ 12.81. Technical, Clerical or De Minimus Violations.

(a) A technical, clerical, or de minimis violation for purposes of §571.0631 of the Government Code may include a first-time allegation against a respondent for:

(1) Typographical or incomplete information on a campaign finance report that is not misleading and [or] does not substantially affect disclosure;

(2) Failure to include a disclosure statement on political advertising;

(3) Failure of a non-incumbent to use the word “for” in a campaign [communication, where the] communication that is not otherwise misleading;

(4) Failure to include the highway right-of-way notice on political advertising;

(5) Using a representation of the state seal by a person who is not an officeholder in political advertising that is not otherwise misleading;

(6) [(5)] Filing a late campaign finance report that [if the total amount of political contributions does not exceed $2,500, the total amount of political expenditures does not exceed $2,500, and the report] is not a report due 30 or 8 days before an election [election,] or a special pre-election report, and the alleged violations do not substantially affect disclosure; [report;]

(7) [(6)] Filing an incomplete or corrected campaign finance report that is not a report due 30 or 8 days before an election or a special pre-election report if:

(A) the total amount of incomplete or incorrectly reported political contributions does not exceed the lesser of 10% of the total amount of political contributions on the corrected report, or $5,000; [or]

(B) the total amount of incomplete or incorrectly reported political expenditures does not exceed the lesser of 10% of the total amount of political expenditures on the corrected report, or $5,000; or

(C) the total amount of incomplete or incorrectly reported political contributions or political expenditures does not exceed the amount of the filing fee for a place on the ballot for the office sought or held by the respondent during the period covered by the report at issue, or, if there is not a set filing fee, $500; [or]

(8) Filing an incomplete or corrected campaign finance report if the incomplete or corrected information is not misleading and does not substantially affect disclosure, including:

(A) the filer’s full name, address, office sought, or office held;

(B) the identity and date of the election for which the report is filed;

(C) the campaign treasurer’s full name, address, or telephone number;

(D) the full name of each identified candidate or measure or classification by party of candidates supported or opposed by a political committee;

(E) the full name of each identified officeholder or classification by party of officeholders assisted by a political committee;

(F) the amount of total political contributions maintained as of the last day of the reporting period, if the error is a de minimis error as defined by §20.50 of this title;

(G) the purpose of a political expenditure; or

(H) the period covered by the report;

(9) [(7)] Failure to timely file a campaign treasurer appointment if, before filing the campaign treasurer appointment, the total amount of political contributions accepted does not exceed $2,500 and the total amount of political expenditures made or authorized does not exceed $2,500; [$2,500.]

(10) Failure to disclose information related to an out-of-state political committee required by §20.29 or §22.7 of this title if the total amount of political contributions accepted from the committee does not exceed $10,000 and the contributions are otherwise properly disclosed;

(11) Failure to disclose the principal occupation, job title, or employer of a contributor if the total amount of political contributions accepted from the contributor does not exceed $15,000 and the contributions are otherwise properly disclosed;

(12) As a general-purpose committee, making a political contribution to another general-purpose committee without including in its campaign treasurer appointment the name of the recipient committee before making the contribution, if the contributing committee properly disclosed the contribution;

(13) Failure to file a termination report required by §20.317 or §20.417 of this title if the period covered by the termination report is included in a subsequently filed report;

(14) Filing a campaign finance report without using the form prescribed by the commission if the report:

(A) discloses all the information required by chapter 254 of the Election Code and this title;

(B) is substantially similar in size and format to the form prescribed by the commission; and

(C) is not misleading and does not substantially affect disclosure;

(15) Making a political contribution prohibited by §253.1611, Election Code, if the contribution does not exceed the limits by more than $1,000 and the amount in excess is returned to the contributor; or

(16) Failure to timely respond to a sworn complaint if the response is no more than 30 days late and the respondent shows good cause for the late response.

(b) A technical, clerical, or de minimis violation for purposes of §571.0631 of the Government Code may include allegations against a respondent for:

(1) Typographical or incomplete information on a campaign finance report that is not misleading or does not substantially affect disclosure;

(2) Filing an incomplete or corrected campaign finance report if:

(A) the total amount of incomplete or incorrectly reported political contributions does not exceed the lesser of 5% of the total amount of political contributions on the corrected report, or $2,500; or

(B) the total amount of incomplete or incorrectly reported political expenditures does not exceed the lesser of 5% of the total amount of political expenditures on the corrected report, or $2,500; or [$2,500.]

(3) Filing an incomplete or inaccurate campaign finance report by a general-purpose committee if, during the period covered by the report and during each of the two reporting periods preceding the period covered by the report, the committee did not:

(A) accept political contributions totaling $3,000 or more;

(B) accept political contributions from a single person totaling $1,000 or more; or

(C) make political expenditures totaling $3,000 or more.

(c) During the review of a sworn complaint under Chapter 571, Subchapter E of the Government Code, if the executive director determines that all the alleged violations are technical, clerical, or de minimis under subsection (a) of this section, the executive director may enter into an assurance of voluntary compliance with the respondent. Before entering into an assurance of voluntary compliance, the executive director may require a respondent to correct the violations.

(d) During the review of a sworn complaint under Chapter 571, Subchapter E of the Government Code, if the executive director determines that all the alleged violations are technical, clerical, or de minimis under subsection (b) of this section, the executive director may enter into an agreed resolution with the respondent. Before entering into an agreed resolution, the executive director may require a respondent to correct the violations.

(e) An assurance of voluntary compliance or an agreed resolution entered into under this section is [are] confidential under §571.140 of the Government Code.

(f) An assurance of voluntary compliance or an agreed resolution entered into under this section may include a penalty not to exceed $500.


§ 20.1. Definitions.
Text of Proposed Rule

The proposed new language is indicated by underlined text.

Chapter 20. REPORTING POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS
AND EXPENDITURES

Subchapter A. GENERAL RULES

§ 20.1. Definitions.

The following words and terms, when used in Title 15 of the Election Code, in this chapter, Chapter 22 of this title (relating to Restrictions on Contributions and Expenditures), and Chapter 24 of this title (relating to Restrictions on Contributions and Expenditures Applicable to Corporations and Labor Organizations), shall have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.

(1) – (23) (No change.)

(24) Vendor--Any person providing goods or services to a candidate, officeholder, political committee, or other filer under this chapter. The term does not include an employee of the candidate, officeholder, political committee, or other filer.


§ 20.56. Expenditures to Vendors.
Text of Proposed Rule

The proposed new language is indicated by underlined text.

Chapter 20. REPORTING POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS
AND EXPENDITURES

Subchapter B. GENERAL REPORTING RULES

§ 20.56. Expenditures to Vendors.

(a) A political expenditure made by a vendor for a candidate, officeholder, political committee, or other filer, with the intent to seek reimbursement from the filer, shall be reported by the filer in accordance with this chapter as though the filer made the expenditure directly.

(b) A vendor of a candidate, officeholder, or specific-purpose committee for supporting a candidate or assisting an officeholder may not, in providing goods or services for the candidate, officeholder, or committee, make an expenditure that, if made by the candidate, officeholder, or committee, would be prohibited by Sections 253.035, 253.038, or 253.041, Election Code.

(c) A candidate, officeholder, or specific-purpose committee for supporting a candidate or assisting an officeholder may not use political contributions to pay or reimburse a vendor for an expenditure that, if made by the candidate, officeholder, or committee, would be prohibited by Sections 253.035, 253.038, or 253.041, Election Code.


§ 20.61. Purpose of Expendituress.
Text of Proposed Rule

The proposed new language is indicated by underlined text.
The deleted language is indicated by [strikethrough] text.

Chapter  20. REPORTING POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS
AND EXPENDITURES

Subchapter B. GENERAL REPORTING RULES

§ 20.61. Purpose of Expenditure.

(a) For reporting required under §254.031 of the Election Code, the purpose of an expenditure means:

(1) A description of the category of goods, services, or other thing of value for which an expenditure is made.  Examples of acceptable categories include:

(A) advertising expense;

(B) accounting/banking;

(C) consulting expense;

(D) contributions/donations made by candidate/officeholder/political committee;

(E) event expense;

(F) fees;

(G) food/beverage expense;

(H) gifts/awards/memorials expense;

(I) legal services;

(J) loan repayment/reimbursement;

(K) office overhead/rental expense;

(L) polling expense;

(M) printing expense;

(N) salaries/wages/contract labor;

(O) solicitation/fundraising expense;

(P) transportation equipment and related expense;

(Q) travel in district;

(R) travel out of district;

(S) other political expenditures; and

(2) A brief statement or description of the candidate, officeholder, or political committee activity that is conducted by making the expenditure and an additional indication if the expenditure is an officeholder expenditure for living in Austin, Texas.  The brief statement or description must include the item or service purchased and must be sufficiently specific, when considered within the context of the description of the category, to make the reason for the expenditure clear.  Merely disclosing the category of goods, services, or other thing of value for which the expenditure is made does not adequately describe the purpose of an expenditure.

(3) For purposes of this section, “consulting” means advice and strategy. “Consulting” does not include providing other goods or services, including without limitation media production, voter contact, or political advertising.

(b) An expenditure other than a reimbursement to a person, including a vendor, for more than one type of good or service must be reported by the filer as separate expenditures for each type of good or service provided by the person in accordance with this rule.

(c)[(b)] The description of a political expenditure for travel outside of the state of Texas must provide the following:

(1) The name of the person or persons traveling on whose behalf the expenditure was made;

(2) The means of transportation;

(3) The name of the departure city or the name of each departure location;

(4) The name of the destination city or the name of each destination location;

(5) The dates on which the travel occurred; and

(6) The campaign or officeholder purpose of the travel, including the name of a conference, seminar, or other event.

(d)[(c)] Except as provided by subsection (e)[(d)] of this section, this rule applies to expenditures made on or after July 1, 2010.

(e)[(d)] The requirement to include an additional indication if an expenditure is an officeholder expenditure for living in Austin, Texas, applies to an expenditure made on or after July 1, 2014.

(f)[(e)] Comments:

The purpose of an expenditure must include both a description of the category of goods or services received in exchange for the expenditure and a brief statement or description of the candidate, officeholder, or political committee activity that is conducted by making the expenditure.  A description of an expenditure that merely states the item or service purchased is not adequate because doing so does not allow a person reading the report to know the allowable activity for which an expenditure was made.

The following is a list of examples that describe how the purpose of an expenditure may be reported under section 20.61.  This list is for illustrative purposes only.  It is intended to provide helpful information and to assist filers in reporting the purpose of an expenditure under this rule.  However, it is not, and is not intended to be, an exhaustive or an exclusive list of how a filer may permissibly report the purpose of an expenditure under this rule.  The rule does not require the candidate or officeholder to identify by name or affiliation an individual or group with whom the candidate or officeholder meets.

(1) Example:  Candidate X is seeking the office of State Representative, District 2000. She purchases an airline ticket from ABC Airlines to attend a campaign rally within District 2000.  The acceptable category for this expenditure is “travel in district.”  The candidate activity that is accomplished by making the expenditure is to attend a campaign rally.  An acceptable brief statement is “airline ticket to attend campaign event.”

(2) Example:  Candidate X purchases an airline ticket to attend a campaign event outside of District 2000 but within Texas, the acceptable category is “travel out of district.”  The candidate activity that is accomplished by making the expenditure is to attend a campaign event.  An acceptable brief statement is “airline ticket to attend campaign or officeholder event.”

(3) Example:  Candidate X purchases an airline ticket to attend an officeholder related seminar outside of Texas.  The acceptable method for the purpose of this expenditure is by selecting the “travel out of district” category and completing the “Schedule T” (used to report travel outside of Texas).

(4) Example:  Candidate X contracts with an individual to do various campaign related tasks such as work on a campaign phone bank, sign distribution, and staffing the office.  The acceptable category is “salaries/wages/contract labor.”  The candidate activity that is accomplished by making the expenditure is to compensate an individual working on the campaign.  An acceptable brief statement is “contract labor for campaign services.”

(5) Example:  Officeholder X is seeking re-election and makes an expenditure to purchase a vehicle to use for campaign purposes and permissible officeholder purposes.  The acceptable category is “transportation equipment and related expenses” and an acceptable brief description is “purchase of campaign/officeholder vehicle.”

(6) Example:  Candidate X makes an expenditure to repair a flat tire on a campaign vehicle purchased with political funds.  The acceptable category is “transportation equipment and related expenses” and an acceptable brief description is “campaign vehicle repairs.”

(7) Example:  Officeholder X purchases flowers for a constituent.  The acceptable category is “gifts/awards/memorials expense” and an acceptable brief description is “flowers for constituent.”

(8) Example:  Political Committee XYZ makes a political contribution to Candidate X.  The acceptable category is “contributions/donations made by candidate/officeholder/political committee” and an acceptable brief description is “campaign contribution.”

(9) Example:  Candidate X makes an expenditure for a filing fee to get his name on the ballot.  The acceptable category is “fees” and an acceptable brief description is “candidate filing fee.”

(10) Example:  Officeholder X makes an expenditure to attend a seminar related to performing a duty or engaging in an activity in connection with the office.  The acceptable category is “fees” and an acceptable brief description is “attend officeholder seminar.”

(11) Example:  Candidate X makes an expenditure for political advertising to be broadcast by radio.  The acceptable category is “advertising expense” and an acceptable brief description is “political advertising.”  Similarly, Candidate X makes an expenditure for political advertising to appear in a newspaper.  The acceptable category is “advertising expense” and an acceptable brief description is “political advertising.”

(12) Example:  Officeholder X makes expenditures for printing and postage to mail a letter to all of her constituents, thanking them for their participation during the legislative session.  Acceptable categories are “advertising expense” OR “printing expense” and an acceptable brief description is “letter to constituents.”

(13) Example:  Officeholder X makes an expenditure to pay the campaign office electric bill.  The acceptable category is “office overhead/rental expense” and an acceptable brief description is “campaign office electric bill.”

(14) Example:  Officeholder X makes an expenditure to purchase paper, postage, and other supplies for the campaign office.  The acceptable category is “office overhead/rental expense” and an acceptable brief description is “campaign office supplies.”

(15) Example:  Officeholder X makes an expenditure to pay the campaign office monthly rent.  The acceptable category is “office overhead/rental expense” and an acceptable brief description is “campaign office rent.”

(16) Example:  Candidate X hires a consultant for fundraising services.  The acceptable category is “consulting expense” and an acceptable brief description is “campaign services.”

(17) Example:  Candidate/Officeholder X pays his attorney for legal fees related to either campaign matters or officeholder matters.  The acceptable category is “legal services” and an acceptable brief description is “legal fees for campaign” or “for officeholder matters.”

(18) Example:  Candidate/Officeholder X makes food and beverage expenditures for a meeting with her constituents.  The acceptable category is “food/beverage expense” and an acceptable brief statement is “meeting with constituents.”

(19) Example:  Candidate X makes food and beverage expenditures for a meeting to discuss candidate issues.  The acceptable category is “food/beverage expense” and an acceptable brief statement is “meeting to discuss campaign issues.”

(20) Example:  Officeholder X makes food and beverage expenditures for a meeting to discuss officeholder issues.  The acceptable category is “food/beverage expense” and an acceptable brief statement is “meeting to discuss officeholder issues.”

(21) Example:  Candidate/Officeholder X makes food and beverage expenditures for a meeting to discuss campaign and officeholder issues.  The acceptable category is “food/beverage expense” and an acceptable brief statement is “meeting to discuss campaign/officeholder issues.”


 
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