After Beto O’Rourke hacked servers, the Texas Ethics Commission wants money for technology upgrades

AUSTIN — The Texas Ethics Commission is seeking three-quarters of a million dollars to upgrade its aging technology ahead of the midterm elections after Beto O’Rourke’s massive fundraising report was slammed last month.

Without changes, the system “could collapse again” when the next round of campaign finance reports are due in October, commission leaders warned in a July 29 letter.

The case is coming to a head as campaign finance reports continue to mount, the letter says, and the commission’s decades-old staff can’t keep up.

Last week, commission leaders wrote to top government budget secretaries asking for $756,000 in emergency funding to move the records system to the cloud.

The letter, signed by the commission’s chairman, vice chairman and CEO, said the agency had “exhausted options to improve the performance of existing tools.”

The request was made to the state Legislative Budget Board, a group of 10 key lawmakers who can move money around in the legislature’s absence.

It is unclear whether the group is willing to accept the request. The commission requested funds to upgrade the technology in the last state budget cycle, but did not receive any funding, according to the letter.

Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Greg Boone, R-Friendwood, who chairs the House Administration Committee, did not respond to requests for comment.

In July, O’Rourke went on a record campaign fundraising drive in his bid to unseat two-term Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

The 102,407-page report is so large that it took several days to post it on the commission’s website.

After working Through the weekendAccording to the letter, staff eventually found the report online after “temporarily diverting server resources from other critical agency systems.”

“This problem is not caused by what the candidate did or did not do,” the letter said. The agency’s aging servers were unable to process a file containing more than 500,000 political contributions.

Billionaire George Soros donates $1 million to Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke

Not only can candidates raise more money in a state with no contribution limits, but a 2019 law also requires them to report all donations made electronically — no matter how small.

In total, O’Work raised $27.63 million, while Abbott took in $24.9 million from the end of February through June, according to his campaign finance report.

The pair’s fundraising drives are expected to grow as the race heats up in the final stages before the November election. In addition to the governor’s race, most state officials are on the ballot, as well as all state legislatures.

The next reports are October 11 – less than two weeks before early voting begins.

“Timely disclosure of campaign finance information is always important, but especially so for these pre-election reports,” the letter says.

Staff Secretary Robert T. Garrett contributed to this report.

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