Once upon a time Texas state senator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis promised her constituents that the work her law firm did on behalf of local governments would not become a conflict of interests between her wallet and the Texas taxpayers. According to the Dallas Morning News, As state senator, Davis voted on bills that aided clients
When Wendy Davis chose to work for local government agencies as a lawyer, she promised she would “not represent anyone on any issues” that came before the state.
Like the contrived biography Abortion Barbie has constructed to build a political narrative, this claim, too, is false. She has made rent-seeking and self-dealing her hallmarks while serving as state senator. For instance,
Records show Davis supported legislation governing a toll-road project for which the North Texas Tollway Authority hired her firm. She backed changes governing the collection of unpaid tolls that preceded an NTTA program in which law firms — including Davis’ — were chosen to carry out the collections. And as a state senator, she sought federal money for a transportation project being handled by her law firm.
During the 2011 legislative session, Davis was billing the tollway authority for condemnation work on one project the same day she was voting for toll-collection legislation backed by the NTTA.
The full story is available in the Dallas Morning News but the essence is that Davis used her position as a state senator to get hired by a law firm as a lobbyist, once inside that firm she and another partner formed another law firm, this one minority owned, to do work for the larger firm. Changing her hat back to that of state senator, she used senate letter head to lobby Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on behalf of a project the larger law firm was working on – work in which she held a financial stake.
It gets better:
As a member of the Fort Worth City Council and the regional transportation authority, Davis had a history as an NTTA critic. She voted as a state senator in 2009 against an NTTA-backed measure to give the agency first right of refusal for building road projects in the region. As the 2011 legislative session opened, she introduced a bill to sharply cap the fees NTTA could charge on delinquent tolls.
At the time, NTTA was looking for a law firm to handle condemnation work for the ongoing Chisholm Trail Parkway project. At a March 17 meeting, the staff of the authority’s legal services committee proposed three firms.
Chairman Kenneth Barr recommended a fourth firm that some other board members had never heard of. According to the transcript, Barr had to spell it out for his colleagues: “Newby, N-E-W-B-Y … Davis.”
Barr, whose tenure as Fort Worth mayor overlapped partially with Davis’ time on the City Council, said the firm was a minority-owned business. He cited its connection to Cantey Hanger, which he said had expertise in land acquisition that Newby Davis could rely on.
Barr made no mention that the state senator was the partner behind the firm. Barr also didn’t say that he shared office space with Newby Davis in the Cantey Hanger building.
Subsequently, Davis authored a bill that enabled the NTTA to hire a litigation law firm, rather than a collection agency, to collect tolls and fines from motorists who failed to pay tolls. The law also allowed the law firms to add a collection fee and the law specifically forbade any judge or magistrate from waiving the collection fee. You can probably guess the name of the law firm hired for this lucrative assignment.
Unfortunately, none of this is illegal in Texas. What makes it notable is the fact that Wendy Davis specifically promised Texas voters that she would not pursue her own financial interests via her senate seat and that she has accused her opponent, Greg Abbott, of ethical lapses when not maligning him for using a wheelchair.