Institute Bios

Ed Shack, Ethics Expert and Attorney at Law

Ed Shack advises officeholders, candidates, political committees, lobbyists, attorneys, corporations, and the media regarding the conduct of state officials, campaign finance, lobby, and election laws. He has appeared as an expert witness in criminal trials and before grand juries and legislative committees. Previously he served as a staff member of the Governor’s Ethics Task Force in 1991, which was responsible for drafting emergency rules for the new Texas Ethics Commission and laying the groundwork for the operation of the Commission. He is a former member, City of Austin Ethics Review Commission. He has taught “Ethics and Legal Issues” at the Seminars for Texas State Board Members conducted by the Offices’ of former Governor George W. Bush and current Governor Rick Perry.

Shack graduated with honors from the University of Texas School of Law in 1977. During the 1980’s he served as a staff attorney for the Elections Division of the Secretary of State.

Andy Cates, Attorney and Government Affairs Professional

Cates is the lead attorney and primary lobbyist for the Texas Nurses Association, managing all legislation, political activity, and legal affairs for the largest and longest continually operating nursing association in Texas. Sole legal counsel for 501(c)(6), 501(c)(3), and affiliated PAC. Prior to joining the TNA, Cates was the primary attorney for the Texas Association of REALTORS Political Action Committee, one of the top 3 biggest in the state, and was responsible for ethical compliance oversight and general legal counsel on political ethics. During legislative sessions, Cates was responsible for legislative drafting and bill analysis for all 5,000-6,000 bills filed each legislative session for the Texas real estate industry, including testifying multiple times per session in front of House and Senate Committees as a real estate expert on issues important to the industry.

Commission Update

Seana Willing, Executive Director, Texas Ethics Commission

Seana Willing is a 1993 graduate of St. Mary’s University School of Law, in San Antonio, Texas. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics in 1985 from the College of Holy Cross, in Worcester, Massachusetts.  She is licensed to practice law in all Texas courts, as well as before the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas and the United States Supreme Court. From 1993 until 1998, Ms. Willing was in private practice in San Antonio, concentrating in the area of business litigation. She left private practice to work as a prosecutor for the San Antonio Regional Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel for the State Bar of Texas. In September 1999, she joined the State Commission on Judicial Conduct as a staff attorney, where she investigated and prosecuted disciplinary actions against Texas judges. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Willing became the agency’s General Counsel. In June 2003, she was appointed to the position of Executive Director, where she served until February 2017. On February 13, 2017, Ms. Willing took over as Executive Director of the Texas Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission’s primary goal is to promote public confidence in electoral and governmental processes by enforcing and administering certain laws, including campaign finance, lobby, and personal financial disclosure laws.

Randy Erben, Texas Ethics Commissioner

Adjunct Professor, The University of Texas School of Law, 2016-present. Legislative Director, Office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Jan. 20-Nov. 20, 2015. Owner, Principal, and Attorney, Erben & Yarbrough, 1993-2014. Erben & Yarbrough was a law firm primarily engaged in a state and federal governmental affairs practice, working on a broad range of issues. It also offered consulting services on ethics matters such as campaign finance, lobby filings, and financial disclosure to a number of statewide elected officials and legislators, as well as other entities. Served as general counsel for Texans for Rick Perry, Governor Perry’s primary political committee, from 2006-present. He holds a bachelors’ degree from Princeton University and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin. More.


Texas House Speaker Joe Straus

Joe Straus is the Speaker of the Texas House and a State Representative from San Antonio. Through five terms as the House’s presiding officer, Speaker Straus has focused on providing thoughtful and lasting solutions to the most serious challenges facing this fast-growing state.

Under the leadership of Speaker Straus, the Texas House has strengthened career readiness in public schools, put more universities on the path to Tier One status, provided long-needed funding for the State Water Plan, directed billions of new dollars toward transportation, and balanced every state budget. Speaker Straus has also put a focus on issues such as improving mental health care, protecting children from abuse, and ensuring that students receive the special education services to which they are entitled.

Speaker Straus has been widely recognized for his mature, inclusive approach to governing. The Dallas Morning News named him the 2017 “Texan of the Year.” In addition, Speaker Straus recently received the Levenson Family Defender of Democracy Award from the Anti-Defamation League for the strong stand he took against the Trump administration’s family-separation policy. He has also been recognized for his leadership by educators, mental health professionals, law enforcement, and the business community, among others.

Speaker Straus is a fifth-generation Texan and a San Antonio native who served in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He and his wife, Julie, live in San Antonio and have two adult daughters.

Local Government Lobbying - Navigating Municipal Ethics Laws

Ross Fischer, Attorney at The Gober Group and former Ethics Commissioner

Ross Fischer is a leading expert in the areas of campaign finance, professional ethics, and public integrity matters. He counsels entities, public officials, and candidates in these complex areas of the law.

Prior to joining the Gober Group, Ross served on the Texas Ethics Commission, the agency with jurisdiction over officeholders, campaigns, political committees, and lobbyists in Texas. He served as a Commissioner from 2005 through 2010, including one year as the Commission’s Chairman. In 2014, the Speaker of Texas House of Representatives appointed Ross to serve on the Select Interim Committee to Study Ethics Laws. He has also served as a clinical professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

In June 2018, Ross was elected by the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas to serve as its General Counsel. The State Bar of Texas is the second largest bar association in the United States, with over 100,000 active members. More.

Bill Longley, Legislative Counsel, Texas Municipal League

Bill Longley graduated from the University of Richmond in 2004 with a degree in political science and sociology. In 2007, he received his Juris Doctor degree from The University of Texas School of Law. While in law school, Bill worked as a legal clerk for TML and clerked at an insurance litigation firm in Austin. Prior to joining TML as legal counsel, Bill served as an assistant attorney general in the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General.

Digital Advocacy - Understanding and Utilizing Technology and Social Media in Today’s Advocacy Environment

Elyse Yates, Founder, Influence Opinions

Elyse Yates is the founder and CEO of Influence Opinions. Elyse offers more than two decades of experience and expertise in arenas as diverse as politics, high-tech, public affairs, nonprofits, and entertainment – not to mention amazing big-picture vision, incredible insight, and strategies that work – all delivered with a zest for life that you wish you could bottle and sell.

Prior to launching IO, Elyse was a managing director for Public Strategies, Inc., the recognized leader in public perception management for Fortune 500 companies. During her tenure there, Elyse built an interactive business unit and a media relations division, managed the firm’s marketing and branding, and led teams consulting for a broad spectrum of clients, including Perot Systems, the San Antonio Spurs, Seton Healthcare Family and Bank of America. Previously, Elyse was a media relations specialist at IBM, where she worked with broadcast media nationwide, specializing in the use of technology to distribute content. Among her earlier political credentials, Yates served as deputy spokesperson for then-Governor Ann Richards. More.

Now Trending: 2018 Election and the 2019 Session - Post Mortum and Projections Moving Forward

Mike Baselice - Baselice & Associates

Michael Baselice is President and CEO of Baselice & Associates, Inc.  Michael has extensive experience in political campaigns and issue/referendum projects throughout the United States and abroad.  Since founding Baselice & Associates in 1997, his firm has conducted thousands of survey projects, half of which are corporate and public affairs related.

Michael conducts research on numerous issues including; tort reform, medical liability caps on non-economic damages, judicial selection, and school finance reform.  In addition, to assisting organizations with specific legislative, issue and image research. More.

Jim Henson - The Texas Politics Project 

Dr. Jim Henson directs the Texas Politics Project, a collection of enterprises designed to encourage informed interest and engagement in Texas politics and government.   In that role, he founded and co-directs the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, the only open-access, public survey of public opinion in Texas.  The data sets for those surveys are available in the polling section of the Texas Politics website.  He also writes about politics for The Texas Tribune, and is a frequent resource for news media, researarchers, and civic and interest groups on Texas politics and government. He also coordinates the Government Department's internship program. He is the principal author of Texas Politics, a webtext that incorporates original media and polling data, that is used in introductory Texas government courses across the state.

Harvey Kronberg - Quorum Report

Writer, editor, publisher and chief bottle washer of the Quorum Report,  Harvey Kronberg has been covering Texas politics since 1989. He also serves as political commentator for Time Warner Cable News -- a 24 hour news channel serving central Texas. He has been cited in publications as diverse as The Congressional Quarterly, The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor and more.  Former Lt. Governor Bob Bullock called editor Kronberg "the Capitol's most astute observer."

Ross Ramsey - Texas Tribune

Ross Ramsey is executive editor and co-founder of The Texas Tribune, where he writes regular columns on politics, government and public policy. Before joining the Tribune, Ross was editor and co-owner of Texas Weekly. He did a 28-month stint in government as associate deputy comptroller for policy and director of communications with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Before that, he reported for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as its Austin bureau chief, and worked as a Dallas-based freelance business writer, writing for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ross got his start in journalism in broadcasting, covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas.

Moderated by  Brian Sweany, Former Editor, Texas Monthly

Brian Sweany has been active in Texas media and communications for more than two decades. At Upward Strategy Group, he works closely with major corporations and state agencies, and he specializes in strategic communications and governmental affairs for clients large and small. An alum of TEXAS MONTHLY, he started his journalism career as an intern, in 1996, and ultimately served as Editor-in-Chief until he resigned, in 2016. In his final year, TM earned two National Magazine Award nominations and nineteen CRMA nominations, more than any other title in the country. He was also named to the Folio 100 as an "Up and Coming Trailblazer" and was cited for leading "one of the highest quality regional magazines in the US, where editorial excellence is the norm."