Two expenses from Mayor Ginger Nelson's most recent campaign finance report have raised some questions regarding the Texas Ethics Commission's finance rules.
According to expenses filed to the City of Amarillo from the Nelson campaign, Ginger Nelson paid Amarillo Building, LLC $920 for "campaign office space rent." That expense was made with personal funds to an entity in which Nelson and her husband, Kevin, are part-owners. According to Expio Digital Marketing on Facebook, as recently as three years ago, Kevin Nelson purchased the full share of the building.
Nelson also reported payment to her business, Law Offices of Nelson & Nelson, for $1,000. The expense was listed as "wages for campaign services."
On the subject of payments to a candidate's business, the Texas Ethics Commission rules, "A candidate or officeholder may not make a payment to such a business if the payment is for personal services rendered by the candidate or officeholder or by the spouse or dependent child of the candidate or officeholder. (Nor may a candidate or officeholder use political contributions to pay directly for such personal services.) Other payments to such a business are permissible only if the payment does not exceed the amount necessary to reimburse the business for actual expenditures made by the business."
Ethics Advisory No. 35 (issued July of 1992) also addresses a candidate's expenses to a personal business, saying, "A candidate who owns 50 percent of the stock in a corporation engaged in the advertising business may make a payment from a political contribution to the corporation to purchase advertising services and supplies if the payment is in the amount necessary to reimburse the corporation for actual expenditures. A payment greater than that amount would be in violation of section 253.041. A payment less than that amount would be an impermissible corporate contribution."
Because no information is listed as to the actual amounts of expenditures by the companies, a definitive answer can not be determined as to whether Nelson's expenditures were a violation of campaign finance regulations. If Nelson's payments to her businesses were more than the cost of actual expenses, it could be a violation.
Ginger Nelson did not comment on this story as she has previously refused to comment on all stories by The Amarillo Pioneer.
For more information on Texas Ethics Commission rules, visit the Ethics Commission website. To see all candidates' finance reports for the city council elections, please visit amarillo.gov.