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Abbott Raises Ethics Questions As Davis Begins Book Tour

Stephen Becker

Do candidate book tours promoted by a publisher violate Texas campaign contribution laws?

That’s the question Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is raising as his Democratic opponent Wendy Davis begins appearances with her newly released memoir, “Forgetting To Be Afraid.”

Abbott’s campaign has asked the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) to rule on whether the book tour constitutes a corporate contribution to a candidate which is illegal in Texas.  In a letter to the TEC, Abbott’s campaign manager identifies Davis’ publisher, Blue Rider Press, as a corporation and suggests book royalties and the money spent marketing Davis’ book could be illegal corporate campaign contributions.

Davis campaign says it’s followed “every legal guideline.”

“This frivolous stunt by the Abbott campaign is the clearest sign yet how worried they are about the power of Wendy’s story,” the campaign said in a statement.

TEC Executive Director Natalia Ashley said she hasn’t seen the complaint which was dated today, and couldn’t comment on any rulings about similar complaints.

Andrew Wheat, research director with Texans for Public Justice, says he’s unaware of a precedent for this complaint and said Davis’ tour seemed very similar to Gov. Rick Perry’s 2010 promotional tour for his book, "Fed Up.” 

Wheat added that AT&T, a corporation, purchased 700 copies of Perry’s book to give to legislators. 

He suggested if Perry’s book events were lawful Davis’ probably are as well.

Texans for Public Justice monitors ethics issues and has filed numerous complaints against public officials.

A spokesperson for Gov. Perry said she's unaware of any complaints abou his book tour which began after his gubernatorial campaign.

Davis begins her book signing tour tonight in Fort Worth.  Her book will be officially released tomorrow.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.