In the 2018 Texas Republican Convention, Delegates decided on what they considered were the most important issues facing the Citizens of Texas. A little known fact, the Texas Republican Convention is the largest Convention in the world. It’s even larger than the National Republican Convention. The 8,000 plus delegates in Texas felt that Tax Payer Funded Lobbying (TPFL) was the most urgent issue by a 97% vote.
Many ask, what is TPFL? To answer that we must actually answer two questions, first what is lobbying and second, how is it affected by tax dollars. The word lobbying is defined as any attempt to influence law makers. The term lobbyist has been traced to the 17th century where citizens would gather in a large lobby near the English Commons to express their views. Lobbying in its simplest form is considered to be First Amendment protected speech, however, modern day lobbying by paid professionals is what we are talking about.
The second part of ‘what is TPFL’ is the money part. TPFL is when government agencies like counties, cities, school districts and other tax collecting agencies use money taken usually in the form of property tax to pay professional lobbyists directly or indirectly to influence elected officials on legislation that will be to the advantage of those taxing government agencies.
Now that we understand what TPFL is, we can ask how lobbyists influence law makers. Again we have two answers. The first method of influence is by spending time with the legislators explaining how the particular legislation will be good or bad for the entity they represent. The second method involves money. Lobbyists can’t directly buy our law makers, can’t hand them wads of cash or send them on European vacations. What they can do is give money to the legislator’s campaign.
In the last legislative session, there were about 15 bills that would abolish or curtail the practice of TPFL. Some bills called for an outright end to TPFL and others called for new requirements like keeping records of how much money was spent on lobbyists and for what purpose. The majority of the bills made their ways to committee hearings where they eventually died for various reasons, many times because the bills are similar and redundant. Two bills, Senate Bill 29 and House Bill 281, identically worded bills, managed to be passed up the chain through committees and reconciliation with amendments added and then removed, up until the final vote in the House on HB 281. In this vote, the legislation died when 25 Republicans joined with 60 Democrats to kill the bill with a final vote of 85 nays and 58 yeas. Had those 25 Republicans not turned against the taxpayer and had joined the 58 others, TPFL would have ended by a vote of 83 to 60.
My thoughts were why 25 Republicans would turn against the Republican Party, 8,000 Republican delegates and the Texas tax payers. I went to www.legiscan.com to determine who the 25 nay voting Republicans were and hoping to find some kind of common denominator. Unable to find anything of interest there, I then went to www.followthemoney.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that literally follows the money and that is where things got interesting. Follow the money tracks how much money legislators receive and who they receive it from. The money is broken down into 15 categories from individuals to special interest groups, to government agencies to lawyers, lobbyists and more.
Some interesting information I discovered was: H-E-B CEO Charles Butt gave $9.7 million to politicians over a 23- year period, University of Houston gave $956,952 over 10 years, Texas A&M gave just over $1 million in 13 yeas, AT&T gave a whopping $94.5 million in 29 years, Chichasaw Nation gave $13.3 million in 21 years and the Texas Realtors gave $25.6 million in 23 years. Sort of makes me wonder what those groups wanted for their money. The other thing that I found interesting is when I buy groceries, real estate or pay my phone bill, I’m actually by proxy donating to those same politicians.
Next week, I am going to name those 25 Republicans that voted against the Republican Party. The same Party that put them in office and I’m going to tell you how much money they got from lobbyist and government agencies and I will explain why I want you to know what your elected officials are doing. Don’t think I am picking on the Republicans because the Democrats will get their turn soon.