Self-dubbed the “Voice of Texas’ business,” the Texas Association of Business (TAB) has been involved in both policy advocacy and campaigns over the years. Originally aligned with Republican interests over a Democrat-led legislature, in recent years TAB has supported more moderate Republicans and Democrats friendly with the speaker of the Texas House, Joe Straus, rather than incoming conservative lawmakers.
During the 85th Session of the Texas Legislature, TAB has been at the forefront of the fight over the so-called “bathroom bill.” This bill would require people to use the bathroom designated for the gender of their birth, and has caused a struggle between liberal Democrats and conservative lawmakers, including Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. TAB has opposed the bill, asserting it would cause economic harm to Texas businesses.
1.Accepting money from candidates
Typically, political action committees contribute to candidates for elected office, not the other way around. However, Speaker Straus and one of his key advisors, State Representative Charlie Geren, contributed significant amounts of money to TAB’s PAC during the 2016 cycle. With plenty of money in his own campaign account as well as the Texas House Leadership Fund account which he also controls, Speaker Straus helped fund several independent PACs. These PACs worked to elect candidates in districts across Texas who were considered Straus-aligned.
2. Minimal donor support
Insiders in Austin would have citizens and legislators believe that TAB is the sole voice of the business community in Texas. The organization’s name and website reinforce this messaging, but the dollars flowing to TAB’s PAC suggest otherwise. While a multitude of businesses contribute to TAB’s non-political efforts, the support for their PAC by Texas business owners is quite minimal. Given the fact that the majority of Texas’ largest political donors are small and large business owners, one would think the “Voice of Texas’ business” would make the cut on their political giving list. The fact that TAB’s PAC boasts so few donors suggests the reputation they’ve worked to construct in Austin might be built on sand. This might also explain why those in the Capitol who wish TAB would assail conservatives more aggressively have grown frustrated, claiming TAB’s efforts are often more bark than bite.
3. Direct campaign contributions are slim
During the 2016 cycle, TAB’s PAC made relatively few direct contributions to candidates’ campaigns. Instead, like another statewide entity, Texas Right to Life, TAB’s election activity centered around their own expenditures, such as mailing voter guides into targeted districts. Of the direct contributions to campaigns TAB did make, nearly all went to moderate Republicans, the largest of which was only $1,000. Relative to the multitude of other PACs working to influence elections in Texas, TAB’s political giving barely registers on the radar. This fact might explain why TAB’s efforts in the 85th legislature, particularly on the “bathroom bill,” have been met with resistance or indifference from virtually all lawmakers.
Most interesting donation:
TAB’s most interesting donation is not a campaign contribution, but rather a vendor payment. TAB spent over $17,000 in payments to Lone Star Targeting, making them the largest payee of TAB’s political spending during the 2016 cycle. According to their website, Lone Star Targeting “prides itself on putting clients in touch with the most influential people in Texas.” The business operates as a hybrid between lobbying and connecting the “right” people to campaigns. The rest of Lone Star Targeting’s website is sparse, with little more information to be found.
Our Capitol Crowd series outlines and highlights the politicians, advocacy groups, and donors that have the biggest impact during the 140-day legislative session. Check back throughout session for updates.