For immediate release: Conservative groups ask Governor to halt Texas Ethics Commissioners acting on expired terms

Leading conservative groups request top elected officials intervene to resolve unconstitutional “holdover” situation at Texas Ethics Commission.  

Austin, Texas – May 31, 2016:  Concerned Texans have appealed to statewide elected leaders in resolving a problematic situation at the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC), the state agency which regulates political speech. Half of the appointed commissioners at the TEC are exercising authority in spite of expired terms.  Leaders from Texas Right to Life, Grassroots America, the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party, the Texas Homeschool Coalition, Texas Values, and Empower Texans, respectively, submitted a letter of concern to Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Joe Straus.

Appointed to the Commission by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House, TEC commissioners are constitutionally permitted to serve one full four-year term, and any portion of a second four-year term.  A “holdover” period is granted between the expiration of a commissioner’s term and the appointment of a commissioner to take his place.  However, the TEC is currently in the unusual situation wherein half of the commissioners – four of eight – are acting on expired terms.  In fact, Commissioner Tom Harrison’s term expired five years ago.  In 2015, three other commissioners’ terms expired.

In the letter, Texas Right to Life President Jim Graham and other leaders called the circumstances an “undue extension of terms in office,” and asked state leaders to identify the appointment of four new commissioners as a priority action item.  Concern over the situation stems, in part, from abuse of the TEC’s regulatory power by certain elected officials for political self-interest. When dealing with regulating core political speech, new voices in power are paramount to ensuring the First Amendment rights of individuals are not trampled on through life-long politicians bent on personal vendettas.  The coalition letter calls this drawn-out holdover period “a vehicle to harass and silence the voice of people during their participation in the political process.”

Read the letter in full here.