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Ethics Commission Fines Simmons' PAC Over Donations

Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

The political action committee for Waste Control Specialists, which is owned by Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, was fined Wednesday by the Texas Ethics Commission over illegal political contributions. 

The PAC illegally donated nearly $65,000 to 18 state lawmakers — 15 Republicans and 3 Democrats — in 2011, shortly after the organization was formed. At the time, Simmons was the only contributor to the PAC. Texas elections code requires a PAC to have at least 10 donors before it makes a political contribution.

“We made an error when the PAC was formed, we were notified and we immediately got in compliance,” said Chuck McDonald, a spokesman for the WCS-Texas Solutions Political Action Committee.

Texans for Public Justice, a liberal advocacy group, discovered the illegal contributions in a routine processing of campaign contributions and filed a formal complaint with the Ethics Commission in February.  The PAC was fined $6,450.

“We are disappointed in the meager size of the fine,” said Craig McDonald, the director of TPJ, in a prepared statement. “Let’s all pray Simmons takes more care in handling atomic waste [than] he does in handling his campaign contributions.”

All of the lawmakers who received the contributions returned the money. And the PAC immediately paid the fine.

“We got 100 percent of that money back, and we wrote contributions to those individuals subsequently,” Chuck McDonald said. In total, the WCS-Texas Solutions PAC has contributed $348,000 to Texas candidates since it was formed.

The illegal donations went to Sens. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Reps. Kelly Hancock, R-Fort Worth; Cindy Burkett, R-Mesquite; Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton, R-Mauriceville; Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton; Byron Cook, R-Corsicana; Myra Crownover, R-Lake Dallas; Drew Darby, R-San Angelo; Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth; Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi; Sid Miller, R-Stephenville; Wayne Smith, R-Baytown; Dan Branch, R-Dallas; Jessica Farrar, D-Houston; John Frullo, R-Lubbock; Patricia Harless, R-Spring; and Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth.

Becca Aaronson develops data interactives and reports for The Texas Tribune. After an internship in fall 2010, she was hired by the Tribune to help cover the 82nd legislative session. She previously interned at the Houston Chronicle. Becca is a native of Austin who graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., with a degree in cultural theory.
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