Last month, the bill attempting to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying appeared unlikely to make it out of the Texas House State Affairs Committee. The atmosphere has shifted in the last week, after so many people came to testify at a hearing for House Bill 749 that the meeting lasted until early the next morning. The sheer volume of advocacy has thrust the lobbying ban bill back into the spotlight, and we’re seeing a surge of renewed interest in the Texas lobbying conversation.
The money in Texas lobbying can be confusing and opaque, particularly if you don’t work in state politics. Transparency USA’s Texas Lobbying Data is a user-friendly database offering the most comprehensive, searchable source of information on the money spent to lobby Texas representatives in Austin.
We thought it would be a good time to revisit the way Texas lobbying data works so that you can get the most out of your search — in particular, how entities are classified, why prospective compensation is the most useful metric, and the reason lobbying numbers are in ranges (as opposed to the exact numbers we expect from campaign finance).
On Transparency USA, you can see the names of the lobbyists who are seeking to persuade Texas politicians to vote in their favor. You can also see which organizations are hiring those lobbyists, how much they’re paying, and whether they are using tax dollars to do it.
On the Lobbyists page, you’ll find a list of individuals who have been hired to represent an organization’s interests in Austin. We refer to organizations who hire lobbyists as Lobbyist Clients.
Typically, the lobbyist advocates for legislation that benefits their client in some way. They meet with lawmakers to attempt to persuade them and often take lawmakers out to meals, sporting events, and other entertainment.
On the Lobbyist Clients page, you’ll find a list of organizations that hire lobbyists to advocate for the organization’s interests in Austin.
We have categorized the Lobbyist Clients into two groups: Private and Taxpayer-Funded.
Private organizations are those which receive their funding primarily from private enterprises.
Taxpayer-funded organizations are those which receive all or almost all of their funding from taxing authorities. Most often, those lobbying efforts are focused on increasing spending and/or raising taxes on behalf of organizations that stand to benefit from additional funding. Think city councils or public schools.
The first step to eliminate confusion is to establish terms. The definition of taxpayer-funded lobbying has been, frankly, a bit of a moving target in Texas politics. During the 2019 attempt to ban the practice, the Senate bill classified governmental entities (or organizations composed of primarily governmental entities) as taxpayer-funded. The Senate’s definition was then made more narrow by amendments in the House before the bill was ultimately defeated. Lawmakers have an interest in a narrow definition in order to increase their odds of passing legislation — in this, and many other instances.
At Transparency USA, we’ve created a standardized definition of taxpayer-funded lobbying that we use when we categorize Lobbyist Clients. We classify three types of organizations who receive all or almost all of their funding from taxing authorities as “Taxpayer-Funded.” We include:
Our definition is slightly more broad than the one used in the bill that passed in the Senate last session, but still excludes many organizations that receive taxpayer money. We do not include companies that merely sell products or make profits from the government, even if those profits are substantial. For example, we would include a government contractor who makes red light cameras, but we would not include an office supply store that sells to the public but also has a contract to provide supplies to government offices, even if that store makes a substantial amount of money from the government contract. If we had chosen to include all companies and organizations that receive any funding from taxing authorities, that category would have been much larger.
We have intentionally made a clear and high standard for classifying an organization as taxpayer-funded.
Lobbyists are required to report their compensation in one of three ways: Prospective (after they have been hired by the client but not yet done the work), Earned (after they have done the lobbying but not yet received compensation), and Paid (after they have actually received the compensation). Once lobbyists have filed a Prospective report, they are not required to amend the report with actual earnings by filing the Earned or Paid reports. Because the Prospective reports are the most comprehensive, the numbers you’ll find on our site reflect Prospective compensation only.
Lobbyists are allowed to report their compensation in ranges. We have included a screenshot from the Texas Ethics Commission’s lobbyist reporting form as an example. We have reported the lobbyist’s compensation at the high end of the range he or she selected. On any lobbyist’s profile, you can also see both the minimum and maximum end of the reported range. These amounts include not only income to the lobbyist for their work, but also reimbursements to the lobbyist for money spent to entertain politicians.
See the entire Texas Ethics Commission lobbying registration form for 2021 here.
Worth noting, the prospective compensation ranges included in the form change each year. The photo above reflects the ranges for 2021. Ranges for previous cycles, including 2020, are different.
For more about lobbying, you can find all TUSA articles on the topic here. To begin exploring Texas lobbying data, start with the latest reported numbers for 2021. For additional lobbying data, including cumulative numbers for big-name lobbyists and their clients, you can select from these two-year election cycles:
2022 Election Cycle (Current)
At Transparency USA, we strive to provide citizens with the best, most complete, and most accurate data possible. The numbers you search are just a few of the millions of transactions included on our site. If you see something you believe is inaccurate, let us know. We know how many of you rely on our data to make informed voter, donor, and campaign decisions, and we want to ensure that our numbers are correct. Contact us at email@example.com.