Thursday, November 30, 2006

Don't Disclose Too Much

One usually thinks of disclosure rules for public officials as a means to get information out in the open so all can see who is providing gifts, and how much they are worth.  The Texas Ethics Commission, however, is taking a bit more restrictive view of what has to be disclosed about a gift.  A staff advisory opinion approved by the Commission in a 5-3 vote, which is discussed in an AP article (here), only requires the official to disclose what was received, but not the gift's value.  Under this approach, a disclosure of receiving a "check" is sufficient without listing the amount.  The opinion relates to a case in which a member of the State Employees Retirement Board who had served as treasurer for former Representative Tom DeLay's campaign only disclosed the receipt of a "check" from a Republican donor, which was to help him offset legal fees related to an investigation of the DeLay campaign.  The check was for $50,000, a very nice gift.  If the Texas Ethics Commission's opinion stands up, then future disclosures might just say "cash," "boat" or "car" with nothing more.  (ph)

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