A Costly Contribution

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Probate Court 1 candidate Catherine Goodman exceeded the amount for a contribution by twice the legal limit. Now that contribution may cost her up to $55,000 plus legal fees, should her opponents decide to pursue the violation.

Judicial candidates have to follow stricter guidelines than other candidates for office. For instance, they have limits on how much money they may accept from an individual. This fact is well known among judicial candidates. According to Election Code 253.155, in a county-wide judicial race in Tarrant County, the contribution limit is $5,000 per individual. A recent Campaign Finance Report (CFR) shows that one candidate exceeded that limit. Catherine Goodman, candidate for Judge in Tarrant County’s Probate Court 1, accepted a contribution twice that of the legal limit!

On July 10, 2017 Goodman accepted donations from Dyann McCully and Jere McCully in the amount of $5,000.00 each. The problem is that Dyann and Jere McCully are married and Election Code 253.158 determines spouses to be one individual for campaign contributions. That makes one of those $5,000 contributions a clear violation.

As a lawyer, it is reasonably assumed that Goodman knows the law. She should have been able to spot the husband and wife who share the same last name. Dyann even lists her employer as “The Blum Firm” and Jere lists his spouse as working for “The Blum Firm.” Goodman had from July 10th to December 31st, the final day of the reporting period, to discover a mistake and refund and rectify the contribution, but she failed to do so.

Section 253.155 of the Election Code clearly sets the limits. Direct Action Texas has filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission that could result in a $15,000 penalty for Goodman. It remains to be seen if Goodman’s opponents will pursue civil damages. One would imagine they would wait until after the primary election to do so. If they do, Goodman could pay a $10,000 penalty, along with court costs and legal fees, to each of her four opponents.

The Texas Ethics Commission will now have to determine if this was a glaring oversight, a failure to familiarize herself with the law, or an intentional breach of ethics. If a candidate is unable to abide by the law in her campaign, how can we trust her on the bench?

For the TEC complaint, click HERE.

 

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