In session and out, lobbying is by far the biggest source of money in Texas politics. Taxpayers foot a sizable chunk of the bill, accounting for as much as $110 million (over 16 percent of the total reported lobbying money) during the 2020 election cycle time period. Another $70,429,959 (also around 16 percent of the total) has spent using taxpayer dollars in the 2021 so far.
This look at the City of Dallas is part of our series analyzing the top taxpayer-funded entities in Texas.
The effort to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying is a much-publicized and controversial topic in Austin this legislative session. The Republican Party of Texas has made eliminating the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying one of its top eight priorities, and bills to end the practice have been filed in both the Texas House (HB 749) and Senate (SB 234). While the Senate bill has an easy road ahead, the House bill appears unlikely to reach a vote, meaning taxpayer-funded lobbying is expected to survive another legislative session.
Whether you support or oppose the practice (more on what both sides say here), it’s helpful to understand what lobbying looks like for entities like the City of Dallas, including their budget, who they hire, and what their objectives are.
Cities across Texas have combined to spend upwards of $50 million to lobby lawmakers in Austin since 2019. The City of Dallas has been among the cities paying out tax dollars to lobbyists to advocate on a number of issues.
With a nearly $1.44 billion general fund and $3.85 billion total budget for FY 2020-21, the City of Dallas provides a number of key services to residents across the city, including housing, and access to food and healthcare, streets and sidewalk systems, community programs, and more.
Led by a mayor and 14-person city council, the City of Dallas serves an estimated 1.3 million residents, according to the City Hall website.
According to filings with the Texas Ethics Commission, from January 2019 – December 2020, the City of Dallas employed three lobbyists. Although individual lobbyists are not required to disclose exact compensation numbers, two of those three lobbyists reported a maximum compensation in excess of $99,999. One lobbyist reported a minimum compensation of $100,000.
|Lobbyist Name||Minimum Compensation||Maximum Compensation|
|Lorena I Campos||$100,000.00||$199,999.98|
|Randy C Cain||$50,000.00||$99,999.99|
Lorena Campos, founder of Campos Consulting Group, LLC, was the highest-paid lobbyist for Dallas during the 2020 cycle, with a maximum disclosed compensation of $199,999.98. Right behind Campos was Randy Cain, an established lobbyist who has been representing clients before the Texas Legislature since 1989, according to his website. Even at maximum compensation, it’s worth noting that taxpayer funds allocated to lobbying represent a small fraction of the City of Dallas’ overall budget.
According to TEC filings for the 2022 election cycle (January 1, 2021 – December 31, 2022), both Campos and Cain continue to represent the interests of the City of Dallas this year. Both reported prospective compensation in the $46,580-$93,149.99 range. No other lobbyists have yet reported compensation from the City of Dallas.
As new lobbying data becomes available, visit Dallas’ Lobbying Client page for the 2022 election cycle to see the latest updates.
The Dallas City Council approved Resolution 20-1786 in November 2020, setting the agenda for the issues the city’s lobbyists might tackle this year. According to a 13-page document produced by the City of Dallas, the city’s legislative agenda is driven by several key principles: recover and grow, protecting local democracy, fiscal stewardship, and caring for vulnerable populations.
The city has highlighted specific issues for their legislative agenda, including economic development, public safety, infrastructure support and improvement, workforce development, provision of equitable services, water sustainability, improved mental health and housing options, funding opportunities for parks, recreation, and arts programs, and social equity.
City Council members also highlighted their support for local control efforts in the legislative program document, stating that “during the 87th Texas Legislative Session, the City of Dallas will pursue and support legislation that reinforces the City’s ability and discretion to meet the needs of residents and will defend against legislation that inhibits or restrains its local autonomy.” In other words, they oppose the GOP’s priority legislation that would ban taxpayer-funded lobbying.
Committee hearings are underway and legislation is officially beginning to move forward in Austin, which means lobbyists for the City of Dallas will be diligently working behind the scenes to make sure they get as many of their client’s priorities pushed through as they can.
In addition to opposing the Senate and House bills that would end the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying (which would curtail the city’s ability to hire lobbyists for future sessions), residents can expect Dallas’ lobbying agenda this session will mirror their list of legislative priorities.
To explore the City of Dallas’ lobbying records for the 2020 cycle, start here. All available records for the newly-added 2022 cycle are here.