in Houston, Texas
Texas state legislature a minefield of potential conflicts of interest
Monday, Jan 07, 2013, 06:13PM CST
By Lee Ann O'Neal
Texas state Capitol

From House Speaker Joe Straus’ horse racing investments to Rep. Carol Alvarado’s work consulting to governments, Hearst Newspapers does a solid job explaining the myriad potential conflicts of interest for state lawmakers.

We’ve looked at some of those conflicts in detail here at Texas Watchdog. Take Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, whose company manages an economic development district in Houston. Like other management districts, Westchase District was created by the Legislature. and can be altered and regulated by laws created in Austin.

Murphy does the work via the company to avoid running afoul of an attorney general’s decision that managing it directly while serving in the House would be a conflict of interest.

The story also highlights Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, and Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, who both have served in powerful legislative positions overseeing the state’s insurer of last resort, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. Eiland earned six-figure legal fees from a multimillion-dollar Hurricane Ike settlement between homeowners and the insurer. Taylor is an insurance agent whose bread gets buttered by selling policies including those issued by TWIA.

The story explains that for all the potential conflicts that are plain to see, there are many more that may be lurking behind broad disclosure rules and loopholes in reporting requirements. Listings like “consultant” on ethics forms and lawyers who can keep their clients confidential keep those disclosures opaque.

***
Contact Lee Ann O’Neal at 713-980-9777 or leeann@texaswatchdog.org.

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Photo of Texas state Capitol by flickr user neohippie, used via a Creative Commons license.

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