Texas lawmakers and leaders spent over $9.5 million in campaign funds in first half of 2007
By KAREN BROOKS / The Dallas Morning News
Friday, January 18, 2008
AUSTIN – From chartering busloads of supporters into Austin to supplementing their staff's state-paid salaries, Texas state leaders and lawmakers managed to burn through more than $9.5 million in campaign funds while they were in a legislative session during the first half of 2007, according to a report released Thursday by the Texans for Public Justice, a campaign-finance watchdog group in Austin.
At the time each 140-day legislative session begins every two years, lawmakers have just completed an election year and are forbidden to take any contributions until after the session ends.
From January through June 2007, most of their spending consisted of travel to and from their districts to Austin, housing during the session, staff salaries and paid consultants, office expenses, and gifts and charitable contributions.
By comparison, lawmakers spent $10.5 million from January through June 2005, during the 79th scheduled legislative session.
Below are some highlights from the report.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: The top spender, with expenditures of nearly $1.1 million, about two-thirds of it on staff and consultants.
Gov. Rick Perry: Next, at $585,524, most of it on staff and consultants, travel and campaign expenditures. The $112,926 the governor spent on travel and lodging included $13,586 to fly with an aide to Turkey to the "Bilderberg Conference," an international group of business people and politicians who meet in private, and whose activities are not shared with the media or ethics officials.
House Speaker Tom Craddick: Third, at $453,598. The Midland Republican's biggest single expenditure was a payment of more than $43,000 for taxes on interest earned by his $4.3 million campaign war chest. Staff and consultants were about 40 percent of his expenses – not surprising during a session in which he was constantly defending his speaker job. More than $60,000 – a third of the staff payments – went to his daughter, Christi Craddick, whose consulting firm works with his campaign.
House: Other House members averaged $27,340 for the session. Of those:
•Rep. Mike O'Day, R-Pearland, who was still campaigning in early January 2007, led the pack, spending more than $140,000.
•Edinburg Democratic Rep. Aaron Peña's reported spending just barely cleared $100, and Rep. Frank Corte, a San Antonio Republican, spent just $1,817.
Senate: Average expenditure per senator was $84,064. But ...
•Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, spent more than twice that amount. The majority of his $199,023 in campaign expenditures went to travel and lodging, gifts and contributions, and food, drinks and entertainment – including six trips to Maggiano's Little Italy in Dallas, for a total of $12,263.
•Top entertainer was Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who spent $38,287 in that category – including $19,345 for Houston Rockets and Houston Texans games with constituents.
•GOP Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo spent only $22,509, the least of the 31 senators.
Also: The statewide officials who spent the least were General Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson ($67,798) and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples ($27,153).