If you missed last night's debate then you missed a good one. In fact, it was the best one to date. Check the live-blog coverage to catch up on the juicy details.
Gene Locke's background and possible conflicts of interests were brought up midway through the debate via a question submitted by a viewer.
Jeff from the Heights asked:
Mr. Locke, will you tell us who you've been a lobbyist/lawyer for and how you would separate those interests from your public responsibility to the citizens as mayor?
Gene Locke replied:
I am not a lobbyist. I've never been a lobbyist. I'm a lawyer. I do general litigation work for firms. I advise people in a general counsel capacity. My public clients include: Port of Houston, METRO, Houston Independent School District, Houston Community College, City of San Antonio, Dallas County, among others my private (unintelligible) corporations here and individuals. Over the years I've represented a host of citizens of this city: some individuals, some small businesses, some large businesses. None of that will have any impact on my ability as mayor of this city because I have said repeatedly that I intend to resign and stop the practice of law when I'm elected mayor. I will not try to be a lawyer and a mayor at the same time.
It is interesting that Locke was adamant that he is not a lobbyist. He goes into detail to explain to Annise Parker the difference between a lawyer and a lobbyist. Locke notes, "Being a lobbyist means you have to go and register. There is a big difference between the two. I hope Ms. Parker recognizes that."
Bells and whistles went off and some investigating reporting was conducted to get to the bottom of this.
It turns out that you have to register to be a lobbyist with the state of Texas. After scouring the confusing Texas Ethics Commission website ... it turns out that Gene Locke indeed did register as a lobbyist ten years ago.
Gene Locke represented Harris County-Houston Sports Authority that year. His lobbyist termination date was scheduled for 12/31/99. Registrations for the years 1998 and 2000 returned negative results.
According to a reverse-lookup on the phone number listed for Locke, he was associated with the law firm of Mayor, Day, Caldwell & Keeton of downtown Houston.
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Now, the type of compensation provided can differ from paid, earned or prospective. The definition for prospective as it applies to Locke in this case means:
"Promised compensation for lobby activity during the year of registration, regardless of whether earned or paid on the date the registration form or amended registration form is filed."
Nonetheless, why did Locke claim that he was not a lobbyist and he had "never been a lobbyist"?
What is he hiding? How deep does this rabbit hole go? If it is a dead end then why did Locke deny ever being a lobbyist? He could have easily said he was not a lobbyist...implying about the present. But once he asserted that he never was a lobbyist, it makes one ponder and challenge the validity of other statements that he has made in the past.