Lobbyist reporting reform needed in Texas

Pratt on Texas - copyright Pratt on Texas all rights reservedTransparency Texas published a good piece pointing out the upside-down nature of some Texas political finance law. The headline points to the problem: “Private Citizens Face More Scrutiny Than Lobbyists.”

“Candidates and PACs must report every dollar given to them. And if a donor gives more than $90, the candidate must report the donor’s name, address and employer, as well as the date and amount. Lobbyists, on the other hand, may choose to report their prospective lobbying contracts (before any lobbying has actually been done) without amending them to show actual dollars earned. Lobbyists are also allowed to report their income in ranges,” the story reports.

“Under Texas law, lobbyists are only required to file detailed reports (names of lawmakers and specifics on spending) when those costs exceed 60 percent of the lawmaker’s per diem ($221). In other words, a lobbyist can spend up to $132.60 on a lawmaker each day without having to report it. If a lobbyist takes four legislators to dinner or a game, he or she can spend more than $530 without having to file a report. If two lobbyists happen to be there, they can spend more than $1,000 on those legislators without voters ever knowing. Lobbyists’ reports of their spending on politicians are so imprecise that they are practically useless,” Transparency Texas rightly reports.

It is time for serious lobby reform in Texas that at least makes it as easy for citizens to exert influence as the professional lobby. And lobbyist reporting needs a rework too with much more transparency.

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