The organization responsible for overseeing lobbying in Texas is the Texas Ethics Committee (T.E.C.) The Texas Ethics Committee was created in 1991, when the Texas Constitution added a new provision. One of the statutory duties of the T.E.C. is to oversee lobby activity. This duty is the subject of Chapter 305, entitled Government Code, where lobbyist activity, reports and registration are detailed. Lobbyists have to register with the T.E.C. each year, which is done electronically, and they also pay a registration fee. As of 2013, registered lobbyists must report on the identity of every person who makes compensation or reimbursement. The T.E.C. releases an annually updated publication entitled Lobbying in Texas: A Guide to the Texas Law, provides information about lobby law, whether or not registration is required, and the process if it is required (“Lobbying in Texas: A Guide to the Texas Law”.)
A comparison of regulation of campaign finance at the national and the state level in Texas demonstrates that at a national level, donations are capped. For example, individuals are allowed to donate $2000 per election; State, District and Local Party Committees can donate up $5000 (combined), and the National Party Committee can also donate up to $5000 per election, to a candidate committee. By comparison, in elections in the state of Texas, these donations have no limit – individuals and committees can donate an unlimited amount of funds to a candidate committee (“Federal and Texas Campaign Contribution Limits”.) It must also be noted that if an individual makes a donation via a consultant then this is done off the books so to speak, and therefore makes it very difficult to keep an accurate record of campaign funding (Ramsey.)
The difference in approach between the two is that at a federal level, allowable campaign funding has a limit; in the state of Texas it is not (unless it is a judicial election.)
For the purpose of maintaining the integrity of the election process, the federal method appears to be the better of the two because, simply put, Texas’ unlimited donations approach is unfair. One candidate may have very wealthy contributors to back their campaign which may lead to election success, but this does not necessarily make them the right person for the job. Why should a political candidate have a better shot at being elected than their opponents just because they have friends in high places? Another flaw in this unlimited funds approach is that a wealthy backer may donate money on the understanding that the candidate will further the contributor’s political interests, which is corrupt. According to John Gardner, founder of the interest group, Common Cause, “there is nothing in our political system today that creates more mischief, more corruption, and more alienation and distrust on the part of the public than does our system of financing elections” (qtd in Smith, p.3.)
A non-profit organization that currently advocates to root out corruption in Texas election campaigning, called Get the Hogs Out of the Creek, aims to “limit the corrosive influence of money in political campaigns.” (“Texas Anti-Corruption Campaign”.) The sentiments of this group clearly summarize the notion that allowing campaign candidates access to unlimited funds from individuals and groups is just plain wrong. The argument that unlimited donations to election campaigns is protected by the First Amendment in the Constitution is a strong one, given that it has been ruled upon by several Supreme Court judges as a type of free speech. However, this argument has been refuted by Senator John McCain, who believes that the richest people in the country get to speak with the most freedom (Stembaugh.)
- Federal and Texas Campaign Contribution Limits. The Texas Politics Project, no date, https://texaspolitics.utexas.edu/archive/html/vce/features/0702_01/cfrules.html. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
- Goals. Texas Anti-Corruption Campaign, no date, https://texasanticorruption.org. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
- Lobbying in Texas: A Guide to the Texas Law. Texas Ethics Committee, 2017, https://www.ethics.state.tx.us/guides/lobby_guide.pdf. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
- Ramsey, Ross. Analysis: Hiding Texas Campaign Spending Details, Legally. The Texas Tribune, 2016, https://www.texastribune.org/2016/08/15/analysis-hiding-texas-campaign-spending-details-le/. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
- Smith, Bradley. Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 238: Campaign Finance Regulation: Faulty Assumptions and Undemocratic Consequences. Policy Analysis, 1995, https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa238.pdf. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
- Stembaugh, Alexandra. Campaign Finance: Free Speech or Unfair Influence? Law Street, 2014, https://lawstreetmedia.com/issues/politics/campaign-finance-free-speech-unfair-influence/. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.