Hats off to Express-News reporters Sandberg and Guckian for the courage to take on this very controversial issue with candor and truth-telling. It’s astounding and really nothing we haven’t already seen in this fight against tolling Texas. Our freeways have clearly been hijacked by the highway lobby and one glance at this article demonstrates it! I hope at least one article in this four part series shows the money trail on the toll legislation…it’s so obvious and it’s all on our web site for anyone to see (The money trail with more here.). The road builders gave handsomely and they got their legislation that will pay them handsomely for the next 50 years for freeways already built and paid for!
Here’s just a taste of the story…
Lobbyists’ money talks — softly, but it’s heard
Web Posted: 04/12/2006 12:00 AM CDT
Lisa Sandberg and Kelly Guckian
Express-News Staff Writers
AUSTIN — Telephone giant SBC spent as much as $7 million last year hiring 112 Texas lobbyists — and ended up with a new law that allowed it to charge what it wants for no-frills phone options, and made it easier to offer television service.
Insurance interests have contributed more than $3.8 million in the past five years to the campaigns of the 18 legislative committee members who oversee insurance laws — and wound up with a homeowners’ bill in 2003 widely seen as favoring the industry.
No one has proof that SBC’s well-funded campaign to overhaul the state’s telecommunications law, or the funneling of campaign contributions by insurance interests, led to victory at the Capitol.
But even the state’s best-paid lobbyist says it would be naive to suggest that big bucks aren’t effective.
Superlobbyist Russell “Rusty” Kelley knows special interest money often prevails. He represents those interests — and sometimes finds himself pitted against consumers.
“There isn’t a level playing field,” he said.
Last year, he earned between $4.4 million and $5.5 million representing 63 clients — and in turn donated $143,000 to legislators and state officials. He knows that to remain influential, he has to spend generously on candidates who later will, Kelley hopes, support his interests.
Kelley says he’s not aware of any quid pro quo connecting money with legislation. Rather, the influence of the lobby is more subtle.
“If you’re asking me if I’d give money if I didn’t do what I do, the answer is obviously no,” the 58-year-old Kelley said.
Welcome to the world of lobbying, where in Texas anywhere from 1,300 to 1,700 special interest representatives try to woo, sway and educate lawmakers into supporting their clients’ pet causes.
For four days beginning today, the San Antonio Express-News will focus on the Texas lobby, tracking the money it spends and the influence it yields.
A review of thousands of state records shows legislation often is introduced by powerful lawmakers after lobbyists spend lavishly on their campaigns and entertain them.
Some of the most influential lobbyists once were legislators themselves, and often gain direct access to former colleagues right after leaving office.
Lobbyists work behind the scenes and they don’t talk publicly about what they do. “It’d be the kiss of death,” one lobbyist said over pizza at a trendy restaurant in downtown Austin.
As most states and the federal government consider various reforms to tighten lobbying restrictions, the lobby in Texas has grown increasingly powerful.
For the rest of the story…Link to article here.
Other stories in the series:
Swarming Capitol paid off for SBC
Lobbying didn’t let up when CHIP was down
‘Clean elections’ might wash away money’s imprint
Politicians cool to taking cash out of politics