Interest Group Regulation in Texas
Interest Group Regulation in Texas
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Discuss how interest groups are regulated in Texas
Introduction: The Texas Ethics Commission
Texas doesn’t place as many limits on what interest groups can do as some other states, but Texas places a high value on transparency. An interest group in Texas can give an unlimited amount of money to a political campaign but must disclose their contributions to the Texas Ethics Commission, which makes that information available to the public on its recently redesigned, highly-searchable website.
The Texas Ethics Commission has eight commissioners, appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house.
Political Action Committees (PACs)
Political action committees (PACs) are formed by designating an oﬃcial treasurer, who must then file contribution and expenditure reports twice a year, with additional reports due prior to any election in which it is involved.
The Commission defines lobbying as “making direct communications with members of the legislative or executive branch of Texas state government to influence legislation or administrative action.” Registration is required for any lobbyist who receives more than $1000 per calendar quarter for lobbying, or who spends “more than $500 in a calendar quarter to benefit a state oﬃcer or employee (or his or her immediate family) when the expenditures are made to communicate to influence legislation or administrative action.”
Registration is $750 per year, with a reduced fee for lobbyists representing non- profit groups. Registered lobbyists file monthly activity reports listing their clients and specific expenditures.
Gifts to oﬃcials are limited to $500 per year, and any gift with a value of more than $50 must be reported. Fines of up to $10,000 and criminal punishments as high as a second-degree felony may be pursued against violators.
Some local governments in Texas can place additional restrictions on interest groups. The City of Houston requires everyone who lobbies their city government to register – defining lobbying as either spending or being paid at least $200 in a calendar quarter or $800 in a calendar year “to influence municipal legislation or administrative action on behalf of the employer by whom the person is compensated or reimbursed.” To register as a lobbyist in the City of Houston costs $291.87 per year and is due along with a registration form within five working days of the lobbyist’s first communication with a city oﬃcial.
After registering, lobbyists in Houston file quarterly reports detailing any spending on communications with city oﬃcials, from the cost of buying breakfast for the mayor to the price of a ticket to take a city council member to a ballgame.
As of October, 2019, there were 130 people registered as lobbyists with the City of Houston.
|Question: How many lobbyists are registered in your city or town?|
The list of registered lobbyists and their clients is available online. Filed registration forms and activity reports are available in the City Secretary’s oﬃce during business hours.
|Does business group's use of "dark money" for its political action committee follow state ethics rules? Find out more at the Texas Tribune|
References and Further Reading
Texas Ethics Commission
Texas Ethics Commission. Checklist for Starting Your Lobbying.
City of Houston. Code of Ordinances - Article V: Lobbying. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
City of Houston. City Fee Schedule. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
City of Houston. Office of the City Secretary. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
Murphy, J. & Root, R. (2018). Does business group's use of "dark money" for its political action committee follow state ethics rules? Texas Tribune.
Licensing and Attribution
LICENSED MATERIAL, ORIGINAL
How Interest Groups are Regulated. Authored by: Andrew Teas.License: CC BY: Attribution