The 86th Session of the Texas Legislature ended on May 27, 2019. As politicians begin to jockey for position going into the next election season, what’s the first thing to watch? Money, of course.
Texas politics generally follows a two year cycle, with two components to each cycle.
First comes the legislative season — 140 days at the start of every odd-numbered year when lawmakers gather in Austin to do their work. This time is known as the “legislative session”.
Next comes election season. As soon as the legislative session ends, all political attention turns to the next elections. Even-numbered years are marked by party primary elections in March and general elections in November. Every two years, all members of the Texas House, half of the Texas Senate, and a smattering of statewide officeholders are up for reelection.
Lawmakers have been in a fundraising blackout since December 9, 2018. Designed to avoid the appearance (or reality) of lawmakers being bribed for their votes, state law prohibits politicians from accepting donations from 30 days before the legislative session begins until 20 days after it ends. This moratorium on campaign contributions ended last Sunday, June 16, so the financial floodgates have just opened. This creates a narrow fundraising window between Sunday and the end of the month, when politicians and PACs have to file their semiannual reports.
While incumbent politicians will still happily accept donations after June, these early fundraising dollars act as both rewards and repellents for lawmakers at this turning point in the political cycle.
Rewards: Big donors and PACs will often make contributions to lawmakers just after the session as a way to express their approval for performing — voting or even preventing floor votes — on legislation relevant to the donor.
Repellents: Incumbents love to rack up contributions during this window because nothing repels a potential challenger quite like a big, fat bank account. When the semiannual reports are released in mid-July, all political eyes will be watching to see who looks vulnerable and who looks untouchable.
Candidates and PACs must submit their reports by July 15, and they should be released by the Texas Ethics Commission to the public the following week. As soon as the information is available, we’ll be hard at work cleaning it up and making it easy to search. If there’s something you’re interested in, let us know. Our mission is to make it easy for you to get the answers you need about the money in Texas politics.
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