Clients and potential clients sometimes ask me about possible conflicts of interest. For purposes of a lawsuit, a conflict of interest occurs when someone has a financial conflict of interest. That "someone" is usually the lawyer for one side or the other. For example, if I own partial interest in a company but then represent someone in a lawsuit against that company, I would have a clear conflict of interest. That is, I would have a financial interest in the lawsuit losing.
Something similar applies to members of the Texas legislature. State legislators are prohibited by the Texas Constitution from voting on statutes in which they have a financial interest. Gary Elkins, R-Houston, does not understand conflicts of interest. Mr. Elkins owns a payday lending business with twelve locations. When a proposed blll came before the state legislature, he spoke against it. When he was asked if he had a financial inerest in the bill, he replied that he knows a lot about the business – apparently suggesting that his opinion had some value regardless of his financial interest. See San Antonio Express News report.
But, that is the point of conflict of interests: your opinion has little value because it is tainted by finances. His interest is clear, so we cannot take anything he says at face value. Just as if a lawyer represents a plaintiff against a company in which the lawyer is a partial owner: whatever the lawyer does will be tainted by his partial ownership interest.
Mr. Elkins has brought disrepute upon the state legislature. Eventually the bill failed. It would have imposed modest requirements on the payday loan business. I just hope the other legislators understood that Mr. Elkins was either disingenuous or has no understanding of what a conflict of interest is.