Republican state Senate battle heats up as Wentworth files ethics complaint against Jones

Marilyn Tennissen May 8, 2012, 7:20am


State Sen. Jeff Wentworth has filed an ethics complaint against his opponent in the Republican primary, Elizabeth Ames Jones, and her husband.

Wentworth accuses Jones' husband, attorney Will Jones, of acting as a lobbyist without being registered as one. He also claims Jones did not disclose some of her business interests while she served on the Texas Railroad Commission.

Jones, a Republican, who served as Texas Railroad Commissioner from 2005 to 2012, is challenging fellow Republican and incumbent Wentworth for the State Senate District 25 seat. The district stretches from San Antonio to south Austin.

"Complainant alleges former Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones violated the personal financial disclosure requirements," the complaint states.

During her term in office, Jones was required under the Government Code to identify each business entity in which the filer, spouse or dependent child and a person required to register as a lobbyist have an interest.

"On information and belief, Jones' husband Will Jones is a person who is required to register as a lobbyist," the complaint states.

It states that Jones failed to disclose her business interests with her "lobbyist husband" on her Personal Financial Statement filed July 1, 2011.

Will Jones' website states that his firm "represents individuals, businesses and political subdivisions relating to public policy development," which Wentworth claims clearly demonstrates an image that Will Jones chose to portray to potential clients that he was a lobbyist.

"Mr. Jones' failure to register as a lobbyist potentially dates as far back as 1994 when Jones wrote a letter to Texas State Senator Jeff Wentworth on behalf of Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) thanking him for meeting with TLR and discussing TLR's upcoming legislative agenda"

Wentworth states it is "clear from the evidence" that Will Jones attempted to influence administrative action through direct communication with staff of the Texas Railroad Commission in 2010 and in the first quarter of 2011. He alleges Will Jones provided information to the Railroad Commission staff about his legal client's concerns with an oil and gas operator.

The complaint also states that according to public records filed with the Texas Secretary of State, Will Jones and Elizabeth Ames Jones share an interest in a Texas corporate entity and that Will Jones currently serves as director for Elizabeth Ames Jones For Texas Inc.

He alleges that Jones had actual knowledge of her husband's lobby activities and failed to disclose it.

TLR has called Wentworth one of the most liberal members of the Senate, and the TLR PAC has contributed at least $26,000 to Jones' campaign. Jones has around $200,000 on hand as reported in the Jan. 13 financial contributions report.

Wentworth has about $183,000 reported for the same time period.

The process to investigate Wentworth's complaints will likely not be completed before the May 29 primary.

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