Greg Abbott strikes out on his ethics campaign promises

Gov. Greg Abbott went 0-for-5 on his ethics campaign promises (Associated Press photo/Joel  Martinez).
Gov. Greg Abbott went 0-for-5 on his ethics campaign promises (Associated Press photo/Joel Martinez).

Seeking election, Greg Abbott called for ethics reform.

And after the 2015 legislative session began, Gov. Abbott declared ethics reform one of his emergency priorities, saying he wished to increase government transparency, reduce legislative conflicts of interest, empower citizens to hold state officials ethically accountable and eliminate loopholes allowing legislators to vote on proposals from which they might financially benefit.

How did he do on those promises? We’ve just scored them on our Abbott-O-Meter.

Abbott noted in a June 2015 document distributed by his office that, after the legislative session, he signed into law three proposals potentially encouraging ethical behavior around government--though it's worth noting he hadn't made any of them a campaign promise.

Abbott OK'd a measure requiring personal financial statements filled out by candidates for state office and state elected officials to be filed electronically. Abbott also signed into law measures he described as closing loopholes. One proposal newly required certain contractors to register as lobbyists and report related spending should they lobby for lucrative state contracts. The other change in law targeted conflicts of interest between vendors and local government entities, providing penalties for individuals who knowingly fail to disclose certain relationships.

However, Abbott vetoed the most substantive ethics proposals that made it to him and said he’s expecting the 2017 Legislature to work anew on ethics reform. (In Texas, the 181-member Legislature gathers for a 140-day regular session every odd-numbered year. Members otherwise convene only if the governor calls a 30-day special session.)

Before we made our judgments, we sought input from Abbott aides without hearing back. We also asked Carol Birch, a lawyer in the Texas office of Public Citizen, the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that calls itself the "countervailing force to corporate power," if Abbott achieved any of his ethics promises in the session. Birch said by phone that Abbott "achieved nothing" on the promises.

Mindful that none of the five ethics promises by Abbott came to fruition, we’ve marked each one, previously not rated, as a PROMISE BROKEN. See the individual Abbott-O-Meter ethics promise updates, starting here.


Promise Broken – The promise has not been fulfilled. This could occur because of inaction by the executive or lack of support from the legislative branch or other group that was critical for the promise to be fulfilled. A Promise Broken rating does not necessarily mean that the executive failed to advocate for the policy.