The PJ Tatler

Does Wendy Davis' Book Tour Violate Campaign Finance Law?

On Thursday, the Greg Abbott campaign filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission. The complaint asks the Commission to look into state Sen. Davis’ (D) book tour, which she is running simultaneously with her campaign for governor against Abbott.

The complaint concerns a trip that Davis took to New York earlier this week, to launch her book. Her campaign paid for that trip, but Davis says the book was not launched now, timed to help her campaign.

Then why did her campaign pay for the trip? That’s what the TEC is being asked to look into.

Davis has dismissed the complaint as “frivolous.” Charges do tend to fly, and the TEC can find itself in the crosshairs, as elections draw near and we’re within two months of the Abbott-Davis showdown.

But do the charges have some merit? The Abbott campaign is forwarding comments by a trio of Texas election law specialists, which strongly suggests that the charge do have merit.

The first is from Tripp Davenport, a former TEC chairman. He says “There’s definitely questions to be raised,” Davenport said. “The appearance of it, based upon what I know — I think there is some merit to it.” He even added that either Davis’ lawyers don’t know what they’re doing, or they let her “push the envelope,” knowing that any TEC action will not come until after the election.

The second is from another former TEC commissioner, Ross Fischer. He told reporter Karina Kling, “In Texas law you can’t use campaign funds and convert them to personal use.” He added that Davis may end up having to pay for the trip out of her own pocket.

The third is from election lawyer Roger Borgelt. He says that the violation is clear: “Given the facts and how things appear, with this trip being 95 percent about the book tour, I don’t know how it could be anything but a personal trip.” But her campaign picked up the bill.

The Davis campaign says that they were careful to follow the law, but the quotes above cast doubt on that. Davis, a Harvard-educated attorney herself, has already come under fire, and an FBI investigation, for other alleged ethical lapses.