The Rockwall newspaper has this story about alleged unethical fundraising in the Rockwall County Courthouse. I have no opinion one way or another regarding the facts of the dispute or its outcome, but my eye was drawn to the following statement in the newspaper story:
The Texas Election Code prohibits the making of a campaign contribution in certain public buildings like the county courthouse.
I think it’s handy to look at the statute in question (Section 253.039, Texas Election Code), because it provides context for the above statement:
Sec. 253.039. CONTRIBUTIONS IN CERTAIN PUBLIC BUILDINGS PROHIBITED.
(a) A person may not knowingly make or authorize a political contribution while in the Capitol or a courthouse to:
(1) a candidate or officeholder;
(2) a political committee; or
(3) a person acting on behalf of a candidate, officeholder, or political committee.
(b) A candidate, officeholder, or political committee or a person acting on behalf of a candidate, officeholder, or political committee may not knowingly accept a political contribution, and shall refuse a political contribution that is received, in the Capitol or a courthouse.
(c) This section does not prohibit contributions made in the Capitol or a courthouse through the United States postal service or a common or contract carrier.
(d) A person who violates this section commits an offense. An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.
(h) In this section, “courthouse” means any building owned by the state, a county,or a municipality, or an office or part of a building leased to the state, a county,or a municipality, in which a justice or judge sits to conduct court proceedings.
The policy concern appears to be that it is particularly unseemly to hand someone a wad of money at the courthouse, but it’s okay if the contribution arrives in the mail. Upon reading the statute, you can also see how the parties in the Rockwall County dispute will spin this – the Texas Democratic Party will argue that the purchase of a ticket to attend the GOP’s “Reagan Day” constitutes a contribution to a political committee. Presumably the county clerk will argue either that she was not knowingly accepting contributions, or that the purchase of a ticket to a political party function doesn’t constitute a contribution.
Tactically speaking, the Democratic Party could have pressed the issue by authorizing the county clerk to sell tickets to a competing event (maybe something like “Iran Contra Day,” or “Reagan Cabinet Criminal Indictments Day”).