Explanations For Railroad Commission Resign to Run Provision Don’t Make Sense

Supporters of the “resign to run” provision targeting only Railroad Commissioners in SB 219 claim it’s somehow necessary because, otherwise, donors from the industry regulated by the RRC could fund a Commissioner’s campaign for other office (and presumably create the appearance or actuality of corruption).  Christy Hoppe of the DMN Trailblazers blog writes that “[l]awmakers wanted commissioners not to tap the interests they are regulating to pay for expensive campaigns for other office.”

If that is truly what animated this provision, it This justification is either fabricated or is a shockingly poorly drafted law, for the following reasons:*

  • The bill doesn’t have anything to do with a Commissioner running for re-election to the Commission. (If industry wanted to corrupt a commissioner, wouldn’t they be more interested in one staying put than one seeking other office?)
  • There is no suggestion that committee chairmen in the House or Senate should be prohibited from accepting campaign funds from those affected by their committees (this presents the same  corruption threat, but is of course not addressed)

The generalized threat of corruption is present with respect to any person, running for any office, at any time. The answer is to require disclosure of campaign finances, which is already required in minute detail by the Election Code. People can see where a candidate’s funding comes from and make judgments accordingly. The reality is that the office of Railroad Commissioner is no different than any other political office, and this provision does not address any corruption threat because it was not drafted for that purpose. Instead, it singles out a particular office, and removes a potential choice from voters.

[*I shouldn’t allege “fabrication”; the law speaks for itself.]