Jim Tolbert rides into office on an ethics complaint. As soon as he is in, he's involved in a series of controversies right away - steakgate, assholegate, and then ends up in a position worse than Larry Romero and he's now the subject of an investigation by the Texas Rangers.
One of his opponents Jud Burgess, is trying to do the same. He's trying to ride into office on, you guessed it, on an ethics complaint. The ethics complaint turned into an on-going investigation by law enforcement.
But the Curse of District 2 apparently has struck Burgess. In the recording I aired last Friday, Jud Burgess admits he spent $1000 fighting the bond.
And that means that Jud Burgess failed to properly disclose his political expenditures - leaving him open to an ethics complaint that if history repeats itself, means he will be facing a pretty stiff fine from the State Ethics Commission.
For his part, Burgess completely denies he has any obligation to report his political expenditures. Now that means one of two things - he either knows the requirements and is purposely trying to hide what he spent, or his completely ignorant of the reporting requirements. In either case, it should be a big red flag for voters.
Burgess and I had a really great back-and-forth in the comment section of the post in which he admits he spent $1000 opposing the EPISD bond. Since he seemed to either not know he had to report, or not willing to report (something I questioned during the bond election) I thought I would do the leg work for him.
So, if you click on this link you will find the Campaign Finance Guide put out by the Texas Ethics Commission.
Burgess argues that he doesn't have to report any expenditures because he's a private citizen. I checked the legislation and I can't find any provision of an exception to report political expenditures because someone is a private citizen. Burgess appears to have fabricated that from thin air.
But don't take my word for it, here's his comment:
Well the state of Texas says different. The state basically says that if you are spending money to oppose a candidate or ballot item and your expenditures exceed $500, you have to file a treasurer and file a campaign finance report. Hell in most circumstances there is even a waiting period before you can make an expenditure of a political nature. Again, don't take my word for it, you can read it right here:
As you can see, the state is pretty explicit when it says that you become a political committee by your actions, and so Burgess was acting as a political committee as he very clearly and conveniently explained in his own words above.
In the video he admits to spending over $1000 in opposing the EPISD bond. In fact he brags that he was up against PACs - although he pretty much admitted he was acting as a PAC. Spending over $1000 is fully twice the legal threshold requirement for reporting. Again, don't take my word for it:
So far we know that by his own admission Burgess a) spent more than $500 and b) was acting as a political committee.
And so there is clearly a legal requirement to report what he spent opposing the EPISD bond, and he has failed to do so.
The failure to do so is an issue because it leads him open to the District 2 curse, but more importantly its an issue because it demonstrates the danger of electing someone who doesn't understand government and how it works. I explained to Burgess he had a requirement to report the expenditures during the bond and he blew me off. So he had knowledge that it was at the very least, potentially a violation.
He filed the ethics complaint against Tolbert and I told him that he should file it with the law enforcement...and he blew me off again. What happened there? The ethics complaint got dismissed because...wait for it...it was supposed to be filed with law enforcement.
Again, he had knowledge ahead of time and chose to ignore it in favor of a course of action that was either easier or afforded him more public attention - instead of doing what was right.
Is that was you want in an elected official?
Now the other nonsensical argument Burgess makes is that my blog is no different than what is opposition to the EPISD bond was. For the record, I was opposed to the bond myself. But, I don't spend $500 on this blog much less in anything I write for or against any candidate, bond item, council or county item, federal or state legislation, in a specific race or any current event I write about. That is completely ridiculous. I write a blog about a range of issues. He took specific action on a particular item, and spent over $500 in expenditures of a political nature for a specific desired result.
And lest I be unclear about the potential results of failing to file - lets take a walk down memory lane and revisit the last time someone failed to file a campaign finance report despite making expenditures more than $500...
The We The People group, which actually went a step further than Burgess and had a treasurer filed, failed to report their expenditures in an election.
So as you can see, the state is serious about violations of this nature and the legislation exists so that people can see who is spending money an election. The public has a right to know. Even if Burgess wants to engage in spending dark money, being a private citizen doesn't absolve him of his obligation to report what he spends.