Most Dallas City Council Members' Campaign-finance Reports Show Violations — But No One Enforces Rules

By their own reports, most current Dallas City Council members committed apparent violations of the city’s campaign-finance laws in recent years, according to a review of public documents by The Dallas Morning News.But no one at City Hall has been watching.Despite a city-imposed limit on how much individuals and groups can donate per election cycle to mayoral and council candidates, oversight by Dallas officials is essentially nonexistent.According to their own finance reports, council members Casey Thomas, Scott Griggs, Philip Kingston, Lee Kleinman, Tennell Atkins, Rickey Callahan and Adam Medrano have accepted donations that exceed those limits. Griggs, Kingston, Carolyn King Arnold and Omar Narvaez have also logged questionable contributions from children. And Kevin Felder recorded illegal donations from businesses.When asked, the council members who responded said the incidents were simply errors in reporting. Many have filed amended reports, signing affidavits saying that “any error or omission” in the original reports were made “in good faith.”But whether the errors were honest mistakes or more nefarious, it hardly seems to matter; no one is in charge of combing over the forms, raising questions or scrutinizing irregularities. And no one is filing official complaints that would prompt an investigation, city officials said.Even if someone filed a complaint about campaign-finance violations, there’s disagreement whether the city’s own ethics panel can even look into the matter. The current chair of that body says no, while the city secretary says yes.Both said the state’s elections cop, the Texas Ethics Commission, could solve to this impasse. But state officials say local campaign contribution limits aren’t their problem.Matthew Wilson, a Southern Methodist University political science professor said the lack of oversight could mean the system is "essentially a free-for-all.”  Continue reading...

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