Uses of Political Contributions Considered in Advisory Opinions
Issued by the Texas Ethics Commission

The Texas Ethics Commission has issued advisory opinions considering specific situations regarding the personal use of political contributions restriction.  Below is a brief description of the situations considered in the advisory opinions.  If your situation is not on the list, do not assume that it is permissible.  If in doubt, call the Ethics Commission Legal Division at 512-463-5800.

Impermissible Use of Contributions
Laundry and dry cleaning expenses (considers IRS standard)
Judge's expenses of maintaining residence in city in which court sits; commuting expenses
Certain investments, such as the purchase of stock primarily to support a family business or the purchase of an investment instrument (i.e., a work of art) that is displayed in the candidate/officeholder's home; loan of political
funds, especially to family
Meals in Austin by legislator - not connected with state business
Governor's and family's travel on personal trip
Expenses of defending lawsuits brought in private professional capacity
Expenses of legislator's spouse for social events
Family recreation or entertainment
Costs attributable to personal use of asset (must apportion car cost)
A license fee unless the license is required for the office held or sought
Contributions accepted as municipal court judge to campaign for office of statutory county court judge
Contribution to a trust fund established for the benefit of an individual to pay for medical needs
Entertainment event tickets for spouse and dependent children if primary purpose is to build relationships with donors or potential donors
Permissible Use of Contributions
  Subject EAO
Purchase electronic equipment for official use in courtroom or judge's chambers
Donation of surplus political contributions to a charity; uses set out in § 254.204, Election Code (relating to Disposition of Unexpended Contributions)
Utility bills for legislator's Austin residence
Legal expenses in defending a lawsuit to collect campaign loan
Spouse traveling to campaign for candidate or in connection with officeholder duties
If political asset used for personal use, must reimburse based on reasonable value of personal use
Operate and maintain personal asset (i.e. plane) for campaign or officeholder purposes
Judge's moving expenses from home city to city in which court sits
Donation to a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization serving physically, mentally, and developmentally challenged citizens (officeholder employed in non-executive position by organization, family member served by organization)
Political contributions accepted before 9-1-83 not subject to personal use prohibition
Spanish lessons, district with large Hispanic population
Surplus funds of deceased officeholder contributed to candidate
Purchase, prepare, and mail Christmas cards to constituents
Membership in FOI Foundation, holiday lunch and decor, donation to private school fundraiser, and charity luncheons may be officeholder expenses
Portrait of retiring county judge for county courthouse
Payment of fine for late Title 15 filing
Purchase, prepare, and mail congratulatory letters —  birth, graduation
Expenses in connection with sworn complaint alleging Title 15 violation
Responding to grievance filed with State Bar regarding conduct as candidate
Investments or loans made with political funds — fact question in each case
Furniture for legislator's residence in Austin
Meals in Austin by legislator —  connected with state business
Legislator business and personal phone calls to district (overrules EAO 78)
Rent and phone for legislator's Austin residence
Legislator's gas, parking, tips, and tolls connected with state business
Small gifts (i.e., flags or souvenirs) for volunteers or constituents
Mobile phone for candidate or officeholder purposes
An unrestricted donation by Governor to state treasury
Judge's payment of state bar dues if office requires being licensed
Judge's payment to assist in preparation of thesis for masters of law in judicial process
  Legislator's payments on condo purchased pre-1992; personal use restrictions apply proportionately to asset purchased in part with political contributions
Legislator's transportation to and from Austin for legislative purposes
Salary supplements for state employees (to state for offset or directly to employee)
Judge's attendance at legal seminar related to judge's duties of office
Waiver of membership fee to unincorporated private club —  cannot be used for personal purposes
If political asset (i.e., airplane) used for personal use, must reimburse based on reasonable value of personal use
Expenses of defending lawsuit filed because of status as a judge
Judge's payment from surplus political contributions for continuing legal education
Judge's payment for social event sponsored by a bar association if connected with candidate or officeholder activities
Purchase furnishings and decorations for Capitol office
Legal expenses for investigation of public corruption
Damage to property caused while discharging official duties
Victory party in conjunction with charity golf tournament
Transportation and hotel expenses to attend Congressman's swearing-in ceremony in connection with officeholder or candidate activities (intent)
Expenses to lease and furnish residence in district for legislative staff member who lives in Austin
Reimbursement with interest allowed for political expenditure from personal funds (see also EAO 391)
Travel expenses incurred by legislator's spouse to attend swearing-in ceremony
Attendance of spouse at legislative conference to assist legislator in officeholder activities
Can correct report filed before 9-12-97 to show intent to reimburse with interest (see also EAO 375)
Tuxedo rental by legislator for legislative gala or nonprofit charity event attended as legislator
Donation of surplus political contributions by former elected county officeholder to county appraisal district where officeholder now holds public office
Contributions accepted as district court judge to campaign for office of court of appeals justice
Membership costs in a nonprofit organization, when membership benefits are primarily connected with officeholder activities
Asset purchase, operation, and maintenance (overrules EAO 68)
Defense against charges of judicial misconduct
Payment to niece or nephew for campaign work
Donation of unexpended political contribution to any generally recognized affiliate of former
officeholder's political party
Federal judge's payment of expenditure made in connection with federal office from contributions accepted as Texas judicial candidate or officeholder
Entertainment in connection with the position of US Ambassador to a foreign country (former candidate/officeholder)
Furnishings for official residence and expenses for holiday staff party in connection with the position of US Ambassador to a foreign country (former candidate/officeholder)
Former elected officeholder's payment from surplus political contributions for expenditure made in connection with current non-elected position at state agency
Payment by a former candidate and former officeholder to pay legal expenses incurred in connection with a defamation lawsuit he brought in his status as a candidate
Payment by an officeholder to reimburse an individual for expenses incurred due to errors made by an officeholder's office
Entertainment event tickets if primary purpose is to build relationships with donors or potential donors or is in connection with specific campaign event
Entertainment event tickets for officeholder if primary purpose is to appear or participate as officeholder
Entertainment event tickets for spouse and dependent children if they substantially participate by assisting with duties and activities as officeholder
Mandatory monthly assessments adopted by the homeowners association for a residence in Austin that the member owns to the extent that the residence is used for political purposes (member of the legislature)
Judicial officeholder’s travel expenses to teach at legal conference


Last Revision: September 28, 2016 | Texas Homeland Security | Statewide Search | Site Policies