Why Can’t Tarrant Judicial Candidates Follow the Law?

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Will our Tarrant County 2018 Probate Judge candidates please quit breaking the law?

If you remember the story about Catherine Goodman, candidate for Probate Judge, she took an improper donation of $10,000 from a husband and wife.   This was a violation of the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act.  The Texas Ethics Commission called her out, Goodman returned the amount in violation, and while she is still exposed to civil liability, it is over.

Now we have something different.  We have Republican Probate Court Runoff candidate, Patricia Cole who has broken a much more serious law.  Cole has accepted contributions from corporations.  This is not an ethics violation, but a criminal violation!

Texas Election Code 253.091 explicitly states that candidates can not receive donations from corporations.  As an attorney, as a judicial candidate Cole knows better.

Cole took $500 from a corporation called “Senior Concepts.”  They are a business that deals with the administration of estates, performance as executor of estates and managing trusts.  Their website claims that they work with the courts to manage the finances in guardianship’s.  Imagine that, the company that makes money from the court to manage people’s finances is donating to Patricia Cole so she can be the judge that “manages” them?  Should we wonder how much extra business that Senior Concepts receives if Cole is to be elected?

 

Looking at the Texas Comptroller’s database, it is clear that Senior Concepts is a corporation.

Also of note on Cole’s finance report is a $5,000 in-kind donation from Fort Worth Business Press for published advertising.  What would happen if CNN, the NY Times, or even NBC decided to provide “free” advertising for a candidate?

The amount of $5,000 is intriguing to DAT. Reviewing Fort Worth Business Press’ advertising price sheet, we find no ads valued at $5,000. We do find plenty ads priced well above $5,000. That amount is the legal maximum a judicial candidate can receive. It would appear Cole either inflated the value of a lesser ad in order to bump up her financial report, OR she reduced the market value of the benefit she received in order to make it appear to be a legal contribution. Either way, it would appear to not be a truthful amount.

Receiving contributions from corporations, reporting an incorrect amount of a contribution, and spending money from illegal contributions are misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail. The corporations (or their agent that authorized the expenditure) are also guilty of this, but their violations are felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The common mantra heard about Cole is that she is the “experienced” candidate and her opponent “doesn’t know the law.”  At least her opponent has the experience and legal knowledge not to break the law and go to jail (and to keep his donors out of prison).

Do we really want to elect a judge that will cheat in order to get elected?  Early voting for the Republican Primary Runoff has already started, with election day on May 22, 2018.

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