The Houston Chronicle reports that Craig Washington, a former Congressman and State Legislator, is being discussed for an appointment to the State Ethics Commission. The commission, which by law must include a certain number of Democrats (including the position currently being discussed), has recently received an opening after former Commissioner Paul Mendoza was appointed to the University of Houston Board of Regents.
This specific appointment is the responsibility of Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, and the Chronicle notes that other candidates such as soon-to-be-former State Representative Craig Eiland and former Congressman Charlie Gonzalez will be considered. The Texas Ethics Commission is a bipartisan body comprised of appointees of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House. It is charged with such tasks as determining the salaries of State officeholders and maintaining the general sense of transparency and openness from public servants. The Texas State Historical Association sums it up somewhat well:
“The commission may recommend salary increases for members of the legislature, the lieutenant governor, and the speaker, but the increase must be approved by the voters. It also sets per diem for state officials, requires financial disclosure from public officials, and publishes recommendations and rules for public officials. It assumed the secretary of state’s duties on advisory opinions, lobbyist registration and expenditures, and review of campaign spending and contributions…The commission was given power to investigate and penalize ethics violations. Conduct in the race for speaker of the House is also overseen by the Ethics Commission.”
The Chronicle noted that Washington was interested in the post, though they went into strange detail cataloging some incidents in the past. First, Washington has had some quarrels with the IRS and there was a rather unfortunate event in the past where he got into an altercation with people trespassing on his property (nobody was injured). The latter incident was ultimately adjudicated without a conviction. As for the IRS, as any Tea Party group will tell you, having an incident with them is not necessarily evidence of nefarious dealings.
Washington would make a rather good Ethics commissioner. I have always observed that he, no matter what controversy he may find himself therein, has a mettlesome sense of right and wrong. When I was lucky enough to have lunch with him earlier this year, this was what stood out to me the most. In response to a query of me at the time, Washington unequivocally ruled out running for public office in the future. With that constraint in mind, I think that serving on the Ethics commission would be a great step for the former Congressman.