in Houston, Texas
Texas lobbyist Mike Krusee uses leftover campaign funds on upscale hotels, fancy meals
Friday, Jun 08, 2012, 10:23AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
money

An ethics watchdog thinks Mike Krusee, a former legislator and now a lobbyist, is breaking the law by some of the ways he has spent nearly $200,000 left over in his campaign fund.

But the sometimes gauzy way the state’s ethics laws are written and the sometimes opaque way they are enforced, well chronicled here by Texas Watchdog, makes it hard to know if Texans for Public Justice is right.

As an exercise in good government, we’ll let you decide.

It seems someone filed a complaint last year against Krusee, of Round Rock, who turned to lobbying in 2009 after serving eight terms in the Legislature, according to the Austin American-Statesman today.

The story doesn’t disclose whether Texans for Public Justice filed the complaint. While Gregg Cox, director of the Travis County district attorney's Public Integrity Unit, confirmed receiving the complaint, he declined to comment on its status.

The ever helpful Ethics Commission makes it a policy not to even acknowledge receiving an ethics complaint until it has made a ruling in secrecy. The Commission, which, when asked, issues interpretations of ethics laws, has not to this point interpreted a case like Krusee’s, the Statesman story says.

When Krusee left the legislature he had more than $300,000 in his campaign contribution accounts. According to disclosures he filed with the Ethics Commission, lovingly detailed by the Statesman, Krusee has spent much of the money jetting around, staying in expensive hotels and feasting on posh dinners.

Andrew Wheat, research director for Texans for Public Justice, told the Statesman it appears from the filings that Krusee is using campaign money for personal use, a violation of state law.

Krusee says he spent the money attending meetings of the non-profit Congress for the New Urbanism, an organization he joined while serving as a state representative. As a member of the board of the group, Krusee considered it an ongoing obligation to jet, sleep and eat expensively.

The considerable expenses have nothing to do with his lobbying, Krusee says. And, besides, a lawyer told him it was all right, the story says.

With the system as it is, Texans for Public Justice and the public will just have to wait to see what  - or if - the Ethics Commission or the Public Integrity Unit will do anything with the complaint.

In 2010 state Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, was accused of ethics violations for driving a new Mercedes Benz that had been a gift to her husband from a company with state transportation contracts.

After nearly 21 months of silence, the Ethics Commission fined Harper-Brown $2,000. The lawmaker has yet to fulfill a promise she made in 2010 to rewrite the ethics law on disclosing the income or property shared by legislators and their spouses.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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