Abbott again questions Davis book tour during race

PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democrat Wendy Davis on Thursday disputed ethics allegations raised by Republican opponent Greg Abbott over promoting her new memoir in the final stretch of the Texas governor’s race.

Abbott’s campaign said it had filed a formal complaint to the Texas Ethics Commission, which has recently signaled getting fed-up with candidates using the agency as a campaign tactic.

Davis used campaign funds to fly to New York this week as part of her publicity tour for “Forgetting to be Afraid,” in which she reveals having an abortion for medical reasons in the 1990s. The book debuted this week as one of the top political biography sellers on Amazon.

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The complaint alleges that the trip — which the Davis campaign says included one campaign event — violated state ethics laws because donors covered the airfare. Abbott’s campaign had asked the agency earlier this week for an opinion about Davis’ promotional stops.

“These kinds of attempts to silence Wendy Davis have failed in the past and only show how worried Greg Abbott is about the power of her story,” Davis spokesman Zac Petkansas said. He said they carefully followed legal guidelines and called the complaint frivolous.

Ian Steusloff, assistant general counsel the ethics commission, said the agency could not comment on nature of the complaint or even confirm that one was received.

But in December, commissioners made clear in a resolution that it “unanimously condemns” campaigns using its office to attack political opponents. They wrote that publicizing filed complaints are “improper attempts to mislead the public” and called it an unfair practice that voters should judge accordingly.

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A ruling about the merits of the complaint is unlikely to come before the Nov. 4 election.

“The fact that a complaint has been filed or the Commission is investigating provides no meaningful information to the voting public,” the resolution read.

Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch defended the campaign publicizing the filing, saying it has only focused on substance and therefore keeps with the spirit of the commission’s resolution.

“It is important to have a process to hold candidates accountable for illegal activity during the campaign,” Hirsch said.

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Davis signed copies of her memoir “Forgetting to be Afraid” on Thursday in Austin. Tax records show that Davis received a $132,000 partial advance for the 300-page memoir and recorded $100,000 in expenses.