A Smorgasbord of Disclosure, Online for the First Time in Texas

A Texas lawmaker is pushing to make all financial disclosure statements filed with the state's Ethics Commission available online so the public can easily find them.

by Aman Batheja and Ryan Murphy, The Texas Tribune / May 6, 2015

Every year, Texas lawmakers are required to report details about their personal finances. An amendment by state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, to an ethics bill in the state Senate last week would make those documents easily available online. After some senators warned that such easy access would expose lawmakers’ families to kidnappers and other threats, the amendment passed on a tight 16-14 vote.

The bill, supported by Gov. Greg Abbott, still needs to pass the House. While proponents of Rodríguez's amendment touted it as a way to help citizens hold lawmakers accountable, it could be more illuminating than that, because elected officials aren't the only ones required to disclose details of their finances. 

Currently, the Texas Ethics Commission only provides citizens copies of personal financial statements when someone asks for them. The Texas Tribune also posts online the personal financial statements of statewide elected officials and the Legislature.

Yet hundreds of appointed public officials in nearly every corner of state government also are required to file the same personal financial statements. That includes high-profile leaders of state agencies like Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek and Education Commissioner Michael Williams. It also includes members of powerful statewide and regional governing boards like the Texas Transportation Commission and the Lower Colorado River Authority, as well as the boards of regents of higher education institutions like the University of Texas and Texas A&M.

In total, leaders of more than 200 public entities are required to file statements, according to the Texas Ethics Commission. Below is a sampling of personal financial statements from non-elected public officials held by the commission.

Terri Langford contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribunea nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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