Agency finds that MQS and Empower Texans either lost or destroyed email evidence; maximum civil penalty of $10,000 is imposed
By Scott Braddock
The Quorum Report
The Texas Ethics Commissionon Monday announced that the agency has foundMichael Quinn Sullivan, president of Empower Texansand a spokesman for Midland oilmanTim Dunn, guilty of failure to register as a lobbyist. For that, the commission imposed the maximum civil penalty of $10,000.
The agency found, among other things, that Sullivan and Empower Texans either lost or destroyed thousands of pieces of email evidence. Commissioner said they were “left with the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Sullivan and Empower Texans have destroyed or lost thousands of emails sent to members of the Legislature during 2010 and 2011.”
“The Texas Ethics Commission unanimously finds that Mr. Sullivan, as part of his regular employment, communicated directly with members of the legislative branch to influence legislation without properly registering as a paid lobbyist,” the order said. The commission said the agency didn’t seek a contempt order against Sullivan because it would have delayed the case, however commissioners felt the fact that Sullivan was uncooperative bolstered the case against him.
The commission also outlined activities that Sullivan engages in on a regular basis that constitute lobbying as long as they’re not done in conjunction with things that do require registration. Those include writing about what is going on in the Legislature, maintaining a website that provides information regarding the Legislature, publishing a rating on a website of how fiscally responsible legislators are, writing news articles and posting them to a website, and publishing a scorecard.
The order, which you canread in full here, said “it is apparent that Mr. Sullivan is a professional lobbyist compensated by Empower Texans and its related entities for employment activities that include direct advocacy.Advocacy is indisputably legal, but being paid to directly advocate without registering as a lobbyist is not."
Just yesterday on a television news program in Dallas/Ft Worth, Sullivan said that he refused to testify in front of the commission because he felt they had already made up their minds. His lawyers on Monday said that they will immediately appeal the ruling in court.
SteveBresnen, the lobbyist and former aide to Lt. Gov.Bob Bullockwho researched the sworn complaints against Sullivan, said he wasn’t surprised by the commission’s finding.
“The evidence I provided supporting the complaints was overwhelming. No other conclusion could have been reached based on the law. It's particularly important to the people of Texas that the Commission thoroughly rejected the spurious ‘legal’ arguments offered byJoe NixonandTreyTrainor,”Bresnensaid of Sullivan’s attorneys. “That said, I take no pleasure in embarrassing Mike. It's worth noting, though, that the Rule of Law is a bedrock principle of conservatism.”
Copyright July 21, 2014, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved