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Bright Lights, Big Risk: Ross Fischer talks Texas Ethics

Individuals, companies, and professional associations pursuing changes in public policy or even defending the status quo need to keep in mind the various laws at the federal, state, and local level governing paid lobbyists and campaign finance. In this episode, GovExperts Insights host Chris Britton is joined by former Texas Ethics Commission Chair and attorney Ross Fischer for a discussion about Texas’ approach to ethics compliance, disclosure and enforcement and best practices to avoid running afoul of state ethics laws. 

Meet Our Texas Ethics Expert Ross Fischer 

Our guest in this episode is Ross Fischer. As Chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission, Ross played a critical role in regulating several areas. This included the ethical conduct of campaigns, officeholders, and lobbyists, safeguarding the integrity of the political process. He served as the Inaugural Chairman of the Legislative and Campaign Law Section of the State Bar of Texas . He also shared his knowledge as a clinical professor at the University of Texas School of Law. His prior public service includes a term as the elected Kendall County Attorney. This is in addition to his ongoing role as General Counsel to the State Bar of Texas. Alongside his accomplished legal career, Ross has earned recognition for his screenplays and short stories. These have focused on Texas history, politics, small towns, and characters.

Bright Lights, Big Risk: Ross Fischer talks Texas Ethics  | GovExperts Insights

What is lobbying? 

Lobbying involves the process of influencing government decisions and policies by advocating on behalf of individuals, organizations, or special interest groups. Lobbyists and lobbying groups engage in various activities, including direct communication with lawmakers, grassroots mobilization, and strategic campaigns to shape legislation and regulations. In Texas, lobbying plays a significant role in shaping public policy across a wide range of issues. These issues vary from healthcare and education to energy and environmental regulation. 

Ethics in Lobbying 

In the practice of lobbying, especially in Texas where transparency and accountability are highly valued, ethical considerations hold paramount importance. A part of the Texas State Constitution, the Texas Ethics Commission is responsible for keeping an eye on lobbying in the state. A registered lobbyist must disclose their clients and certain activities to ensure transparency in their interactions with policymakers. Additionally, lobbyists and lobby groups are expected to avoid conflicts of interest and refrain from engaging in activities that may undermine the integrity of the legislative process. 

As part of its state constitutional responsibilities, the Texas Ethics Commission is composed of eight members appointed to four-year terms in a bipartisan manner by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. The Commission and its staff receive, process, and make available to the public Texas lobby lists, lobbyist disclosures, registrations, and activities as well as campaign finance reports.  Interested persons can search all state registered lobbyists in Texas and state campaign finance reports via the web. Other private services offer like the Texas Lobby Guide provide a web-based lobby directory. The Commission website can also be used to develop an interest groups list to help indentify supporters and opponents for legislative measures.

Texas Lobbying Landscape 

Texas boasts one of the largest and most influential lobbying professions in the United States. With a diverse economy and a vast array of policy issues, the state attracts lobbyists from various sectors seeking to shape legislation and regulations. From oil and gas companies to healthcare providers and other interest groups, stakeholders in Texas wield considerable influence. However, navigating the intricacies of Texas lobbying requires a deep understanding of multiple avenues. This includes the state’s political landscape, regulatory environment, and ethical considerations. 

Advocacy and Ethics 

Texas lobbyists initiate effective long-term advocacy by strongly focusing on ethics. As they advocate for their clients’ interests, lobbyists actively ensure the ethical and transparent nature of their actions. This obviously necessitates navigating potential conflicts of interest and complying with lobbying regulations. Upholding principles of integrity and accountability, lobbyists effectively advocate for their clients, thereby promoting public trust and confidence.


Overall, navigating the halls of government can be particularly challenging for citizens and business alike. Lobbyists and lobbyist groups play a crucial role in ensuring that government policymakers and officials hear citizens’ voices amidst myriad laws, regulations, and complex procedures. The public at large has a vested interest in knowing who pays lobbyists to advocate on specific issues and what activities and expenditures lobbyists engage in concerning state officeholders and employees.

In conclusion, ethics in lobbying is a critical component of the Texas political landscape.
While advocating for their clients’ interests, lobbyists must navigate a complex maze of ethical considerations. By adhering to principles of transparency, integrity, and accountability, lobbyists can ensure that they conduct their advocacy efforts with credibility and trustworthiness. In turn, contributing to a more transparent and accountable lobbying profession in the Lone Star State.

Let’s Talk Today! 

Do you want to change a public policy or address a problem? We’d love to talk with you. Call us at 512-480-0049. 

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