Dewhurst should disclose specific holdings
By Editorial Board
The New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung
September 7, 2008
Transparency in government is the only way that the public can know for sure their elected representatives are doing the right thing. That means politicians are obliged by law to disclose details of their financial interests.
There are ways to avoid complete disclosure and Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst - whose fortune is assigned to the David Dewhurst Trust - takes advantage of them. Campaign watchdog group Texans for Public Justice this week called on prosecutors to investigate whether Dewhurst not disclosing his wealth complies with state law.
As lieutenant governor, Dewhurst is presiding officer of the Texas Senate and holder of enormous influence. It is vital for him to assure Texans that his position has not benefited him financially. The way for him to do that is to publish clear financial reports, not hide his wealth by simply declaring the Dewhurst Trust has assets of more than $25,000.
According to an Associated Press report, Dewhurst acknowledges the trust's assets include cattle ranches, private bank investments, bank investments, stocks, bonds, hedge funds and a major shareholding in a Houston Energy and Investment Firm with an estimated value of as much as $200 million.
Certainly, there could be political motivation in TPJ asking the Democratic Travis County Attorney to investigate Dewhurst. But that can't excuse that Dewhurst's financial statements are far from transparent and hardly can comply with the spirit of the law, as the lieutenant governor insists.
The Texas Ethics Commission Chapter 572, Government Code, defines the legislative intent of the personal financial disclosure:
It is the policy of this state that a state officer or state employee may not have a direct or indirect interest, including financial and other interests, or engage in a business transaction or professional activity, or incur any obligation of any nature that is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of the officer's or employee's duties in the public interest. (ethics.state.tx.us/statutes/07ch572.htm)
How can Dewhurst prove he is, in his words, "squeaky clean" if an estimated $200 million fortune is described only as assets of more than $25,000. That's a lot of non-disclosure.
This past spring, Texas Ethics Commission filings show Dewhurst's Political Action Committee received more than $800,000 in interest-free loans from the lieutenant governor. His political influence is wide and his pockets are extremely deep.
If we don't know - and he said he doesn't know the extent of his assets - then how can he be sure that his political influence in creating legislation and state spending doesn't benefit him personally. Dewhurst's position is too powerful for him to sidestep the public's right-to-know where his wealth is amassed.