Last week, Texas campaign finance reports were released. We’ve cleaned up the data and made it easy to search, so you can see for yourself who’s giving and who’s getting in Texas politics. Here are three surprising headlines to get you started:
TWICE as much money has been spent on lobbying as all the contributions to Texas candidates and PACs combined. The money spent on lobbying typically exceeds all contributions to Texas candidates and PACs, but we’ve never before seen this. More than $640 million is committed to lobbyists to influence Austin lawmakers this election cycle. That’s double the $320 million given to all candidates, officeholders, and PACs put together.
Demands for “getting money out of politics” come from Democrats and Republicans alike — from the Biden campaign all the way down the ballot to local elections. These efforts are almost always designed to limit the amount of money an individual can spend on a candidate or political issue he or she cares about. Lobbying is rarely discussed, but the numbers don’t lie. Lobbying is by far the biggest source of money in Texas politics. And of the $640 million dedicated to lobbying, more than $110 million comes from taxpayers. (You can read more about how lobbying works here.)
Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) has long been a power player in Texas politics, typically among the most well-funded PACs in the state. This election cycle they’ve landed in the number one spot with $13,209,694 in contributions. During the second quarter of this year, when the COVID-related economic downturn hurt fundraising for most candidates and political groups, TLR was raking it in. They collected more than $5 million during April, May, and June, an all-time high for their fundraising.
TLR came on the Texas political scene in the 1990s when they successfully advocated for tort reform legislation. Many credit those efforts for the pro-business climate that helped fuel the so-called “Texas [Economic] Miracle.” Today, they are considered a moderate PAC supporting moderate-to-liberal Republicans and the occasional Democrat. With $15,655,237 cash-on- hand, they are well-positioned to support their favored candidates and causes this fall.
Landing in the number six spot on the list of top PACs in Texas is a new group, Forward Majority Action. The purpose of this political action committee is to target Republican-controlled state legislatures in the 2020 elections and “win back power before the next redistricting process, which will shape the political landscape until 2032.” Texas is among their top targets. According to their website, “Forward Majority has an aggressive strategy and proven model to stop [Republicans] before it’s too late.” They have taken in $3,918,529 so far this election cycle, but have not yet made any contributions to candidates’ campaigns.
With less than 100 days until the elections, it’s more important than ever to keep an eye on the money flowing through political coffers. At Transparency USA, you can easily track money to and from donors, candidates, PACs, and lobbyists. Join us as we bring you the answers and insights you need about money in state-level politics.