Gammage questions Bell's ethics; Bell camp responds

Bob Gammage issued this press release on Chris Bell's ethics:

Democratic Candidate for Governor Chris Bell, who has made "Don't mess with Texas ethics" the cornerstone of his entire campaign, is currently in violation of Texas election law. Though required by Texas law to file by February 13th, Bell has failed to file his personal finance statement with the Texas Ethics Commission. Just what does he have to hide?

"Maybe this is the bold ethics reform Chris Bell is talking about - just ignore the law," Gammage Communications Director Jeremy Warren said. "Mr. Bell should learn to follow the current law before he proposes any new ones."

Bell, who has pledged to "put real teeth in the enforcement [of] our ethics laws," has been bitten by failure to file mandatory paperwork in the past. According to the Houston Chronicle, in 2001, "Bell temporarily lost his law license after he failed to pay his State Bar of Texas dues." (Houston Chronicle, October 26, 2001) Bell, who received three notices from the State Bar, blamed an administrative error for the suspension of his law license for failure to pay his bar dues.

Bell's law license suspension, and his refusal to disclose his income tax returns, became issues in his Houston campaigns. The Houston Chronicle later speculated that Bell didn't want to disclose his tax returns because they would show an IRS lien for failing to pay some $13,000 in back taxes. (Source: Houston Chronicle, September 10, 2001)

In response, the Bell campaign issued a letter from Richard Morrison:
I've had enough. I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore. Chris Bell is a good Texas Democrat, and anyone who says different crosses the line.

The noise emanating from the Gammage campaign has reached a poisonous level that ill-serves our party and insults a man whom I consider a kindred spirit and a real Texas hero. To question a voting record is one thing, but to question Chris Bell's Democratic credentials smacks of petty political desperation.

Bob Gammage's latest attack attempts to question Chris Bell's commitment to ethics reform. The last man to question Chris Bell's commitment to ethics reform was Tom DeLay, and we see how well that worked out for him. And as a longtime Houston-area resident, I remember when Chris Bell first championed--and passed--ethics reform that closed soft-money loopholes, required lobbyists to register, and imposed a revolving door ban. Does Bob Gammage really want to go there?

The failure to file on time -- while a pretty minor thing -- doesn't look good when you're running a campaign based around ethics. It goes to the heart of Bell's message as a candidate. I've never really been a fan of ethics campaigns, because they invite gotcha politics in return.

It's clearly an attack on Bell though, and the sort of thing Gammage promised not to do when he got into the race. But is the attack even getting enough attention to make a difference for Gammage or backfire on him?

Posted by Evan @ 02/24/06 12:04 AM


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Things are certainly getting nasty for us Dems. I thought you Republicans were supposed to be the enemy.

Posted by Nate @ 02/24/06 11:02 AM

As of noon today, Bell still hasn't filed the ethics report that Stanford said would be file EOB on Wednesday.

Didn't Delay also say that it was 'just a technicality'?

Which ethics laws should be trashed because they're 'just a technicality'? Thoughts?

Posted by Texas progressive @ 02/24/06 02:23 PM

I hear ya, Nate. On the other hand, maybe attacks are good for the Dem nominee if they raise his name ID? Probably not, but possibly.

Texas prog --
Do you really think Bell is trying to hide something? I'm an optimist, so I think that's unlikely.

Posted by evan @ 02/24/06 11:56 PM

No, I don't think Bell is trying to hide anything.

I do think it is pretty much a rookie mistake not to file something as simple as a personal ethics statement though.

Texas doesn't have a good track record on ethics accounting anyway. You'd think it would be a top priority in this race where 'ethics' crops up about every other sentence. I'd have thought surely Bell would have been prepared and even 'turn it in early'.

It irritates me when political 'pros' try to pass off a blunder as violating 'just a technicality'. I've heard that too often from people who really DO have something to hide.

Bell's song and dance about this just gave them more cover.

Posted by Texas prog @ 02/25/06 11:23 PM

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