Monday, April 17, 2017

Burgess' Ethical Dilemma

This is an almost cyclical story, but there must be some sort of District 2 curse. The field if candidates in District 2 isn't stellar either. Not as bad as the mayoral field, but there are some problems for all three candidates.

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 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. 


Anonymous said...

An individual does not constitute a committee. See page 1 of the guide linked to in e blog post.

The Lion Star said...

When the individual acts in the capacity of a committee, they become a committee by action.

That is clearly laid out that it is action that determines committee.

Skydiverr said...

I would like you to show the statement in that publication that if an individual opposes something in governmentry that he is automatically considered a commit tee by that action. Personally, I think you're full of it and just wasted a few minutes of my life reading this rubbish.

The Lion Star said...

The threshold is spending more than $500 opposing or supporting someone or a ballot item. Pretty straightforward.

Anonymous said...

I agree that a COMMITTEE is subject to the act irrespective of any filings; however, committee is a defined term, and that definition includes two or more people.

The Lion Star said...

There is no exception afforded to one person who has spent more than $500

Anonymous said...

There is no requirement that an individual who spends more than $500 file a report.

The Lion Star said...

Look Jud, it's very clear. If you spend more than $500, it has to be reported. You'll see when someone files an ethics complaint.

Anonymous said...

Look Jaime, the law referenced in your blog clearly applies to a committee comprised of two or more people. One person does not equal a committee.

The Lion Star said...

Jud, you can sing that story until the cows come home but the reality is you either a) are trying to hide dark money or b) haven't a clue about campaign finance law.

Jose Garcia said...

I've only seen 3 of the 6 candidates in this race actively campaigning: Jim Tolbert, Jud Burgess, and Alexsandra Annello. With this, Annello is the only candidate campaigning without an investigation or ethics complaint. Seems like she's living up to her campaign slogan: "Bringing Integrity Back to District 2"

Tim Collins said...

(12) "Political committee" means a group of persons that has as a principal purpose accepting political contributions or making political expenditures.

GROUP not individual.

To block an individual from such an act woul violate the US Constitution

The Lion Star said...

No Tim, it's not a First Amendment issue. When an individual acts like a committee and spends more than $500, they become a committee by action. No one says they can't do it, so there's no infringement. They just have to report it.

Anonymous said...

if jud gets rid of judy guiterrez- i'll vote for him.
she's toxic and doesn't even live in the district or care about it. all she wants is a paycheck with minimum work.