Now that lawmakers have convened in Austin, private citizens and PACs are no longer able to make political contributions, so the sole financial influence on lawmakers during the legislative session comes from lobbyists. In fact, in session and out, lobbying is by far the biggest source of money in Texas politics — and taxpayers are footing the bill for a lot of it. This look at the City of Houston is the first installment in our series analyzing the top taxpayer-funded entities in Texas.
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Last week we gave you an overview of how a bill becomes law in Texas. Now that you know how the process works, here’s a status update on some important bills as they make their way through the legislative gauntlet in Austin.
1. Texas Association of REALTORS PAC ($35,867,910): The Realtors are the powerhouse of money in Texas politics. Yes, you might be surprised to find that your realtor’s professional dues support one of the most powerful — and certainly the most well-funded — PACs in Texas. What might be even more surprising is that the Texas Association of Realtors PAC (TREPAC) frequently uses its political heft to support liberal Republicans and the occasional Democrat. Apparently, this cycle, they believed their PAC account was too flush with cash, as they purchased more than $29 million of money market instrument mutual funds at Frost Bank. As for TREPAC’s donations directly to candidates, they appear to be motivated primarily by the desire to curry favor with those in power in Austin. They supported incumbents of every stripe in 2018, from the most conservative Republicans ($101,042 to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and $60,000 to State Sen. Don Huffines) to liberal Republicans and Democrats ($55,000 to State Rep. Charlie Geren and $50,000 to State Sen. John Whitmire). During the all-important and ideologically-revealing primary season, the Realtors tended to support the more moderate to liberal candidate in each race, including State Reps. Jason Villalba and Wayne Faircloth and State Sen. Kel Seliger this election season. TREPAC’s largest donation to a candidate this cycle was $140,000 to Cody Harris, a realtor himself, who won one of the most watched elections of the primary season to take the seat of retiring State Rep. Byron Cook. With more than $29 million in the bank, $6.7 million dollars cash-on-hand in their PAC account, and the proven willingness to spend it, the Realtors will be a formidable force in Texas politics for the foreseeable future.