Matt Mackowiak

Texas has a part-time legislature, and inherent in any state with a part-time legislature is the potential for conflicts of interest.

Unless a legislator is personally wealthy, they must hold a job, which inevitably leads to their consideration of a bill that impacts their industry or company directly.

Texas ethics laws are lax and have loopholes. Legislators rarely recuse themselves on votes.

It is one thing for that to happen with one of 150 Texas House members or one of 31 Texas senators.

For governor, candidates should be held to a higher standard.

The contrast on ethics could not be more striking in the race for Texas governor.

Earlier this month, Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slater wrote about serious ethics questions surrounding gubernatorial candidate and State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth), in an exhaustive story with the headline: "As state senator, Davis voted on bills that aided clients."

Slater reported that Davis opposed a North Texas Tollway Authority-backed bill to "give local tollway authorities right of first refusal to build toll projects" on April 6, 2009. Ten months later, she sought information from the Texas Department of Transportation for how minority-owned businesses seeking highway contracts could earn certification. Five days later, a Fort Worth-based law firm hired Davis. Twenty days later Davis opened a two-person law firm that met the criteria for a minority-owned business. Three months later, Sen. Davis wrote to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation seeking federal funds for the Chisholm Trail Parkway Project.

Guess which law firm was handling the project?

Nine months later, NTTA approved hiring Davis' two-person law firm for work on the same project about which she, as a state senator, had written the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

On March 23, 2011, Sen. Davis dropped her version of a bill to cap fees charged to drivers with unpaid tolls, choosing instead to support a bill from Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) that NTTA supported. As the Dallas Morning News reported, "the bill sets the fees regimen that would be the starting point that law firms subsequently hired by NTTA would use to seek settlements." In May she would vote for the bill, which the governor would sign into law.

On March 29, 2011, Sen. Davis voted for a bill supported by NTTA to give "local tollway authorities right of first refusal to build toll projects." She voted against a similar bill just two years earlier.

By May 2011, the Newby Davis law firm was billing NTTA for work on the same project about which she'd written the U.S. Secretary of Transportation less than a year before.


Matt Mackowiak

Matt Mackowiak is a Washington, DC and Austin, TX based political and communications consultant and the founder and President of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC, providing political consulting, media relations and crisis communications assistance to campaigns, companies, groups and individuals. Since he arrived in Washington, DC, he has served in senior roles for two U.S. Senators, a Governor, in the executive branch, in winning political campaigns, and in the private sector. Over his career Matt has developed deep relationships with national, state and local media and political figures.

Most recently Matt worked with PSG client Gov. Sean Parnell (R-AK) as a senior communications adviser, providing counsel on strategy, speechwriting and media relations during the 2011 legislative session in Juneau.

In 2010 Matt served as Campaign Manager for Bill Flores, the Republican nominee in Texas’ 17th Congressional District. After winning a 5-way primary, Flores defeated 10-term incumbent Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) by 25% in November, the largest margin of victory for a GOP challenger in 2010.

In addition to offering counsel to individuals and corporations, Matt provides political analysis for the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, BBC News, and radio stations throughout the country. Matt’s on-therecord political analysis has appeared in Politico, the Washington Times, the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News, The Hill, Congressional Quarterly, the Washington Examiner, the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, and on ABCNews.com. He is a syndicated columnist and has had opinion columns published in the New York Post, New York Daily News, FoxNews.com, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Politico, Roll Call, Austin American-Statesman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Des Moines Register, National Review online, Congressional Quarterly and on the popular blog sites The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post. Matt has lectured and given speeches at the University of Illinois, the University of Texas, Texas Christian University, Georgetown University, Catholic University, the University of Denver, American University and the University of North Texas.

From 2005-2009 Matt served as Press Secretary to U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (RTX), the fourth ranking member of the Republican Leadership, and three-term former U.S. Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT). Earlier in his career he was a political appointee at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson and Assistant Secretary Stewart Verdery, managed the second largest county in Iowa on the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, counseled corporate clients at international PR firm Burson-Marsteller, and performed White House Presidential and Vice Presidential advance nationwide.

Matt is a Director of the Center for Public Policy and Political Studies at Austin Community College, and is a sustaining member of MaverickPAC. He serves as a member of the Board of Advisors for the non-profit Luke’s Wings and enjoys helping Becky’s Fund and USA CARES.

A native of Austin, Texas, Matt graduated with a B.S. in Communications Studies (Political Communication track) from the University of Texas in 2003. Aside from his professional work, he owns and manages the popular blog site www.potomacflacks.com, which the Washingtonian has called “one of the best political blogs.” In his free time, Matt enjoys sports, live music, reading biographies, and is an avid supporter of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the University of Texas.