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Ethics What Elected Officials Need To Know

Natalia Luna Ashley General Counsel Texas Ethics Commission

Four Main Groups of Ethics Laws Title 15, Election Code Candidates, Officeholders, Political Committees, and Political Parties

Chapters 36 and 39, Penal Code - Public Servants

Chapter 572, Government Code - State Officers and Employees

Chapter 305, Government Code - Lobbyists

Focus on first

Read the instruction guides before you complete a report and contact the Texas Ethics Commission if you are unclear, or if you have any questions about how to report anything.
512/463-5800 800/325-8506

File a Campaign Treasurer Appointment. All candidates must file a FORM CTA. File a campaign treasurer appointment with the appropriate filing authority.

You are a candidate as long as you have an appointment of campaign treasurer on file.
A final report terminates your appointment of campaign treasurer. You may still need to file reports as an officeholder even if you are no longer a candidate.

File as a political committee before you exceed the $500 contribution/expenditure thresholds.

DO figure out what type of committee you are before you create the committee. There are two types.
General-Purpose Political Committee (GPAC) Specific-Purpose Political Committee (SPAC)

DO NOT represent that you are a committee if you are not.


Pre-election reports: Must be received by the due date Paper filers: Semiannual reports must be postmarked by 5pm Pre-election reports must be received by 5pm TEC Electronic Filers: Due by midnight of due date

Penalties for Filing Violations


report: $500 for late report in off year

pre-election report: $500


8-day pre-election report: $500 the 1st day, $100 each additional day

Look at the special reporting requirements for the reimbursement of staff:


than $5,000 AND reimbursed in the same reporting period, then list ultimate payee

than $5,000 OR reimbursed in different reporting period, then treat as both an expenditure and also as a loan

DO NOT start any political activity before

acquiring a general understanding of what your responsibilities will be. The Texas Ethics Commission has numerous guides targeted at the different types of persons involved in the political process.

DO NOT accept political contributions from corporations. Violation constitutes a felony.

DO NOT accept more than $100 in cash from one contributor in a reporting period. This applies to candidates, officeholders, and specific-purpose committees.

DO NOT accept political contributions.


DO NOT accept political contributions from foreign nationals.

DO NOT report VISA or other credit card companies as the payee. The payee is always the vendor who receives payment from the credit card company. The date of expenditure may vary but can always be reported as the date of charge.

DO NOT convert political contributions to the personal use of the candidate or officeholder.

DO NOT include raffles as your method for raising political contributions.

Using your own $ on campaign? DO NOT forget to report it and if you intend to seek reimbursement from the campaign, DO NOT forget to indicate that on the report.

Reporting your own $ on campaign

Best Method: Report it on Schedule G as an expenditure made from personal funds and check the box to seek reimbursement.
Complicated Method: Report it as a loan and then as an expenditure. DO NOT report it as a loan for more than you spent!

DO NOT transfer your personal money into your political account!

DO NOT create political advertising without first reading the guide.

Reporting Total Contributions Maintained Texas Ethics Commission Rule 20.50

Balance in accounts

Do not reconcile accounts

Include investments and gains

Do not include personal funds

Penal Code Chapters 36 and 39

As a public servant you commit the offense of bribery if you solicit, offer, or accept a benefit in exchange for a decision, opinion, vote, recommendation, or other exercise of official discretion. Penal Code 36.02

Honoraria Law
A public servant may not solicit, agree to accept, or accept an honorarium (payment) in consideration for services that would not have been requested but for the public servants official position.
i.e. you cannot accept a speaking fee if you were asked to speak because of your position as a public servant.

Prohibitions on Gifts
Most public servants are subject to one or more prohibitions on the acceptance of benefits.

Penal Code 36.08

Prohibitions on Gifts
A public servant who exercises discretion in connection with contracts, purchases, payments, claims, or other pecuniary transactions of an agency may not accept a benefit from a person the public servant knows is interested in or likely to become interested in such a transaction.
Penal Code 36.08(d)

Exceptions to Gift Prohibitions

Non-cash items less than $50. Political contributions. Food, lodging, transportation, or entertainment if accepted as a guest.

A gift from a friend, relative, or business associate with whom you have a relationship independent of your official status. A payment for legitimate consideration in capacity other than a public servant.

Unsolicited Gifts to Charity

A public servant, who receives an unsolicited benefit the public servant is prohibited from accepting, may donate the benefit to a governmental entity with the authority to accept the gift or to a recognized tax-exempt charitable organization formed for educational, religious, or scientific purposes.

Misuse of Government Property, Services, and Personnel

A public servant commits an offense if, with the intent to obtain a benefit or harm or defraud another, he misuses government property, services, personnel, or any other thing of value belonging to the government that has come into the public servant's custody or possession by virtue of the public servant's office or employment. Penal Code 39.02

Political Campaigns
Use of government time or government equipment to work on a persons political campaign is prohibited. See Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 172 (1993)

Misuse of Official Information

A public servant is prohibited from:

Using official information to acquire or assist another to acquire a pecuniary interest in any property, transaction, or enterprise. Speculating or aiding another to speculate on the basis of official information.

Disclosing or using the information to obtain a benefit or to harm another. Penal Code 39.06

Texas Ethics Commission 512/463-5800 800/325-8506 P.O. Box 12070 201 E. 14th Street, Sam Houston Building, 10th Floor Austin, Texas 78701