Our new “Money Behind the Committee Chair” series spotlights the Texas lawmakers chairing prominent committees during the 87th Legislative Session, and the individual donors and PACs who have supported their campaigns leading up to this session.
With the 87th session of the Texas Legislature once again in full swing, lawmakers had hoped to begin addressing this session’s much-discussed, once-a-decade issue – redistricting.
The Constitution mandates that election boundaries for elected office be redrawn every ten years according to federal census data and other guidelines.
Once the federal government delivers census data to the state legislatures, state lawmakers will have the daunting task — fraught with accusations of power plays, gerrymandering and legal battles — of redrawing maps for not only their districts, but for the U.S. House and State Board of Education Districts.
During a typical session in a redistricting year, lawmakers begin proposing election boundaries by filing legislation relating to the boundaries of a district at the beginning of the session. That legislation is then directed to the Redistricting Committee, where the bulk of the work will be done.
An April deadline for delivery of the census data, delayed from its original due date of December 31, 2020, added a wrinkle to the task of the committee. They would be waiting most of the session, then rushing to pass legislation before the session ends May 31. The recent announcement by the U.S. Census Bureau that detailed data would not be available until September 2021, means Texas lawmakers will likely be returning for a special session in the fall to finally address the apportionment of Texas election boundaries.
On any House committee, the chairperson holds a lot of power. The Redistricting Committee Chair’s influence is particularly heightened, as their decisions will impact both Texas state and federal politics for the next ten years.
A senior member of the legislature’s lower chamber, Hunter is no stranger to chairing major committees, having previously served as chair of State Affairs and the all-powerful House Calendars. Hunter was elected to the House District 32 seat – a coastal district contained in Nueces County — in 2008, having previously served four terms in the 1980s.
With such an important part to play in shaping political boundaries for years to come, Transparency USA is taking a look at the money backing the Redistricting Committee Chair.
Rep. Hunter is currently sitting on a comfortable $1,557,677.00 cash-on-hand at the start of 2021, after receiving $669,990.00 in contributions, and making $1,872,469.00 in political expenditures during the 2020 cycle.
He has an impressive donor list, with a $25,000 contribution occupying the top spot, followed by a dozen donations ranging from $20,000 down to $10,000. Perhaps most notably, with the exception of two individuals, Hunter’s most prominent donors of the 2020 cycle are from outside of his home district.
|Total Donations||Name||Donor Type||In/Out|
|$25,000.00||Sam L Susser||INDIVIDUAL||Out of District|
|$20,000.00||Michael T Gallagher||INDIVIDUAL||Out of District|
|$15,000.00||Bryan & Shelley Blevins Jr||INDIVIDUAL||Out of District|
|$15,000.00||Texas REALTORS PAC||ENTITY||Out of District|
|$10,000.00||The Charles Butt Public Education Political Action Committee||ENTITY||Out of District|
|$10,000.00||Farmers Employee & Agent PAC of Texas||ENTITY||Out of District|
|$10,000.00||Michael J Shaw||INDIVIDUAL||Out of District|
|$10,000.00||Mikal Watts||INDIVIDUAL||Out of District|
|$10,000.00||Perdue & Kidd LLP||ENTITY||Out of District|
|$10,000.00||R W Mike Moore||INDIVIDUAL||In District|
|$10,000.00||Robert E Parker||INDIVIDUAL||Out of District|
|$10,000.00||Thomas L Carlisle||INDIVIDUAL||In District|
|$10,000.00||Watts Guerra LLP||ENTITY||Out of District|
A seasoned politician with many years in Austin under his belt, it’s not unusual to see the lopsidedness of Hunter’s contributions between constituent-driven campaign donations and out-of-district support. The longer a politician is in Austin, particularly when they have chaired powerful committees, the more their support tends to come from powerful PACs and lobbyists.
According to his reports to the TEC, the majority of his total funding for the 2020 cycle (71 percent) came from sources outside the district Hunter represents.
|Source||Number of Donations||Percentage||Total Amount|
|Out of District||411||70.98%||$533,719.00|
These numbers appear to be typical of Hunter’s donor base, at least in recent years. From 2015-2020 (all of Transparency USA’s available election data), he raised over $3 million in campaign donations – with 72.5 percent of the total number of donations coming from out-of-district sources.
|Source||Number of Donations||Percentage||Total Amount|
|Out of District||1800||72.5%||$2,727.913.00|
Hunter’s campaign finance records do not indicate any anticipatory contributions ahead of his appointment as Redistricting Chair. The “money follows power” activity typically comes after an announcement, as with the explosion of donations made to Phelan following his bid to become House Speaker back in November.
With a moratorium on campaign account donations between December 12, 2020 – June 21, 2021, there’s no opportunity for that kind of reactionary donor activity while the session is convened. The idea behind the moratorium is to prevent donors from “buying” legislation while lawmakers are in session. This, of course, does not account for any lobbying activity, which continues on throughout the session with little oversight of lawmakers being wined and dined.
What will be particularly interesting in Hunter’s case is the opportunity to see how becoming Chair impacts donor activity. With an almost-certain special session on the horizon this fall to address redistricting, citizens should be on the lookout to see who will donate to Hunter once campaign donations resume at the end of June. Take note of new names, bigger contributions, and a greater number of donors ahead of the fall session.
In the meantime, a more in-depth view of Hunter’s campaign finance data can be found here. Explore all sources of funding back through 2015, and track which of his donors also hire lobbyists to promote their interests in Austin.