Rep. Charlie Geren’s New Bride May Come With Sticky Ethical Issues

If you have yet to hear congratulations are in order for Texas State Representative Charlie Geren and decade long girlfriend Mindy Ellmer. The two had a surprise wedding just as the regular session ended and the protests subsided.

They were married in the Capitol Rotunda with a small group of friends including House and Senate members and his longtime friend Speaker Joe Straus and his wife Julie.

“It just seemed to be the thing to do,” said Geren told the Star Telegram. “We planned it for a little while, but we didn’t want to do it during the session.”

“We are very happy. We are very excited,” Geren said. “We’ve had a very [out in the] open relationship for quite some time. The only difference now is that instead of living together, we’re married.”

This is Charlie Geren’s third marriage and we at The Hayride certainly wish him and his new bride all the best in the world.

Two years ago, the couple bought a condominium in Austin where Ellmer’s consulting and lobbyist firm is located and according to the Capitol rumor mill has that they are building a house together in the area soon.

Along with marriage could this power couple of Austin also be a retirement party for Geren?

If not, it should make for some interesting conflict of interest concerns in the next legislative session.

Mindy Ellmer is considered a “Top Hired Gun Lobbyist” in Austin and her connections with bills Geren has helped passed have come into question while they were dating. His marriage does bring new meaning to being in bed with lobbyists.

In 2015, Geren filed HB 1794, a bill that would place a cap on the amount that cities and counties can collect from companies that harm the contaminate the environment at $4.3 million. The bill was pushed by the Texas Civil Justice League and opponents claimed it was his relationship to Ellmers that lead to him filing the bill. Geren claimed he didn’t know Ellmer had the league as a client.

“There is no conflict of interest whatsoever,” he said at the time, calling it “the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Also among Mindy Ellmer’s clients is AT&T who was sued by Harris County for $5 million due to leaking gasoline storage tanks. Geren said no one from AT&T lobbied him to bring his bill and the suit was settled before he filed it.

“I have a relationship with Mindy,” Geren told the Houston Chronicle. “I vote with some of her clients. I vote against some of her clients. Some of them I don’t even know who they are.”

Andrew Wheat, the research director for Texas for Public Justice said that there was no sound ethical problem with anything Geren did concerning the bill, but he added “I think a lawmaker who sleeps with a lobbyist obviously is opening himself up to all manner of political gossip or criticism.”

That was just one bill issue that has arisen before the couple tied the knot. Mindy Ellmer has a long list of clients from Tesla to Wal-Mart to Sea World and since so many bills effect these large companies it could be an interesting tight rope walk for Rep. Charlie Geren as he works his way around these issues. The important thing for him will be transparency as bills are filed. Not knowing who your wife’s clients are will not play well for long as an excuse.

Charlie Geren Mindy Ellmer
Texas Ethics Commission Report for Mindy Ellmer

Whether it is retirement in Geren’s future or more sessions to come we wish him and his bride many years of wedded bliss.

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