How Interest Groups Influence Texas Government


Lobbying is simply the process of advocating for your group’s interests. Some groups hire professional lobbyists to represent them in Austin. Others rely solely on volunteers.

Texas gun rights lobby flag symbol
Figure 10.1 Texas’ gun-rights lobby swiftly pushed back after Governor Greg Abbott raised the possibility of tighter firearms laws in response to a gunman killing 22 people and injuring 24 others at an El Paso Walmart on August 3, 2019. A gun-rights rally was held outside the Capitol on August 23 and included members of Open Carry Texas and Gun Owners of America. Rallyists carried signs like the one in the image above. Image credit: Jean Downs License: CC BY SA

Grassroots lobbying involves getting large numbers of constituents to contact their legislators on behalf of a particular issue. When done well, grassroots lobbying is incredibly eective with legislators, who are strongly motivated to please voters who live in their districts. Less well known but also eective is “grasstops” lobbying, which involves generating smaller  numbers  of  contacts from people of special importance to legislators – possibly including their largest campaign contributors, local party ocials, mayors or school superintendents. Even small numbers of highly influential people can sometimes make a significant impression.

Like lawmakers, many lobbyists are lawyers, and the persons they are trying to influence have the duty of writing laws. That the disciplines of law and lobbying are intertwined could be seen in the case of a Texas lawyer, Kevin Glasheen, who had been seeking compensation for his unfairly imprisoned client. Glasheen's exonerated-prisoner client had trouble paying the legal expenses, which totaled $1,024,166.67. Glasheen then lobbied the Texas state legislature to pass a bill that increased the payout to exonerated prisoners from $50,000 per year to $80,000 per year. It succeeded, making it possible for his newly freed client to pay the lawyer's fees (the lawyer was later sued for his billing in wrongful conviction cases).

 Legislators frankly rely on interest groups for information. The 2019 legislature considered 10,877 individual bills and resolutions. Part-time legislators cannot possibly know how each of those proposed changes in state law might impact various industries and interests unless representatives of those groups tell them.