Millions spent on lobbyists, legislators
By R.A. DYER
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
AUSTIN -- TXU and its buyout partners spent about $6 million for lobbyists, $11 million for advertising and $200,000 for legislative gifts during the most recent session of the Legislature, according to political spending watchdog group Texans for Public Justice.
The organization noted that the $17.2 million is about twice what TXU had said it planned to spend before the controversial buyout was announced.
But TXU notes that Public Justice's calculations also include spending during the 2007 session by the private-equity firms vying to buy the utility -- not just TXU. A spokesman for the governor accused Public Justice of hypocrisy because it does not disclose its funding sources.
TPG, formerly Texas Pacific Group, and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. hope to buy TXU. They have nearly completed the $45 billion transaction.
But it has been dogged by controversy from the beginning, with major consumer groups saying it could lead to higher electric rates. Texas lawmakers had considered legislation that would have required up-or-down regulatory approval and other concessions, but the measure failed under heavy lobbying pressure. A look at expenditures:
Lobbying and advertising
-$3.8 million for 65 Texas lobbyists hired by TXU.
-$2 million for 21 Texas lobbyists hired by Texas Pacific and KKR.
-$11 million for advertising reported by lobbyists.
-$146,851 to entertain lawmakers and their staff members, as reported by TXU lobbyists.
-$6,000 for 2,400 breakfast tacos purchased by TXU for legislators and their aides on the session's opening day.
Up to $1,000 for San Antonio Spurs playoff tickets purchased by Michael MacDougall, a partner with Fort Worth-based TPG, for Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, and his chief of staff, J.J. Garza. Oliveira and Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, opposed utility legislation favored by consumer groups. Oliveira and Garza declined to comment.
TXU lobbyist Chris Shields bought NCAA tickets for Gov. Rick Perry's legislative director and his son-in-law. The tickets were worth up to $150 apiece, according to Public Justice. A spokesman for the governor said that Shields provided the tickets on behalf of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and that as such they were not an inappropriate gift. Shields said the Chamber of Commerce and Toyota, which has a large plant in San Antonio, split the expense of the tickets.
"We are conservative in our reporting, as indicated by the number of full-time TXU employees who are reported as lobbyists. It may only be a small part of their overall job. A large number of those listed as solely TXU lobbyists are in fact full-time TXU employees whose full-time job is not lobbying."
-- TXU spokeswoman Lisa Singleton
"TXU lobbyist power paid off. They accomplished all of their goals during the session. They stopped any rate rollbacks. They stopped any oversight over the buyout. If there is a lesson, it's that money can help buy you success."
-- Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice
Accepting lobby gifts "is certainly not something that the governor encourages his employees to do."
-- Perry spokesman Robert Black