What do you get when you take a Tom DeLay co-conspirator, a cushy seat on the board of the Employees Retirement System of Texas, and a check from the man who funded the Swift Boaters?
A state lawmaker said Wednesday that it’s absurd not to require public officials to disclose the size of checks given to them as gifts.
Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, urged the Texas Ethics Commission to reconsider its ruling that law does not require Bill Ceverha, a member of the Employees Retirement System of Texas board, to disclose the amount of a check given to him by Houston home builder Bob Perry, the state’s largest individual campaign donor.
“Any appointed government official can receive a check from anybody for any amount and all they have to write on their disclosure form is ‘check,’ ” Burnam wrote in a letter to the commission. “This is absurd — and dangerous.”
Burnam has led the charge to force Ceverha to step down as a board member since Ceverha declared bankruptcy, suggesting that the bankruptcy makes him ill-suited for a job that involves overseeing state money.
Ceverha has refused to resign, saying his bankruptcy had nothing to do with his duties.
Appointed public officials are required to disclose financial information to alert the public to possible conflicts of interest.
Ceverha disclosed receiving a check from Perry last year but did not give the amount. The ethics commission ruled last week that state law requires disclosing only the nature of a gift.
In 2002, Perry donated $3.8 million to Texas candidates and political organizations, including $165,000 to Texans for a Republican Majority, the DeLay committee. In 2004, the publicity-shy Perry gained national attention by initially funding the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an organization targeting presidential candidate John Kerry.
Although 2004 was a relatively quiet year for state candidates, Perry still poured $3.2 million into those campaigns.
Perry’s critics have accused the Legislature of creating the Texas Residential Construction Commission, which arbitrates homeowners’ complaints with builders, at his request.Perry’s lawyer, who wrote draft legislation to create the commission, later was named to the new agency board.
Last month, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn [yes, that’s Little Scottie McClellan’s mom], who is running for governor, said her agency’s review of the commission shows it is acting as a “builder protection agency.”