Statesman: Independent political spending tiny in Texas

Today’s Austin American-Statesman features an article by Laylan Copelin, “Unclear state laws hamper corporate campaign spending in Texas.”

Corporations and unions spent more money at the federal level — often anonymously through associations or groups — because the Federal Election Commission allowed them. On the state level, however, the rules implementing the court’s decision remained too uncertain for associations or groups of corporations to become major players in state races.

Immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, the Texas Ethics Commission, acting within state law, issued rules for individual corporations or unions to disclose their spending to elect or defeat candidates. But the commission was silent on whether groups or associations have to disclose their donors and left that issue to the Texas Legislature, which will return Jan. 11.

So it’s the possibility of disclosure that has potential funders spooked. The article names a member of the Texas House whom CP-Austin should get to know:

Rep. Todd Smith, a Euless Republican and chairman of the House Elections Committee, favors more transparency if the Legislature can agree on how to do it.

Could Rep. Smith—or any other Texas legislators— be interested in citizen funding of campaigns? Austin political consultant Bill Miller thinks not:

“Outside of some isolated do-gooder groups, I don’t see anyone advocating for change,” he said. “The system works quite well for people who are incumbents.”

Hmmph. “Isolated do-gooder group,” eh? We’ll see about that. If the Texas Ethics Commission clarifies the disclosure rules, associations or groups of corporations will quickly become major players in state races, and then we’ll see growing pressure for reform.

About Hamilton Richards

I retired in 2006 as a Senior Lecturer in Computer Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. These days I volunteer technical support for Citizens' Climate Lobby (Austin chapter), Common Ground for Texans, (, Integrity Texas (, and several friends.
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