Lucios raise nearly $2M since 2000Father, son are fervent fundraisers with no fight ahead
BY EMMA PEREZ-TREVIÑO/The Brownsville Herald
February 9, 2008
In the most recent stretch of his nearly 22 years of service in the Texas Legislature, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. has built a formidable war chest, raising more than a million dollars to fight political battles that have never been brought to the battlefield.
Unopposed since 1990, the senator has collected $1.3 million in donations in the last seven years alone, the largest gifts coming from strong Republican supporters and GOP-funded political action committees.
Lucio Jr., whose District 27 covers all of Cameron, Hidalgo, Kenedy, Kleberg and Willacy counties, is again unopposed on this year’s Democratic primary ticket. The former teacher turned consultant and advertising exec is deemed elected without a Republican challenger to face on Nov. 4.
In a fraction of the time, state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, has nearly matched his father’s fundraising.
“In order to be a top-tier representative, it does cost money,” Lucio III said.
Just two years out of law school and two years in the school of state politics, the rookie representative has raised nearly $500,000 in 28 months.
Lucio III, who won an impressive majority against three opponents in the 2006 Democratic primary, is also unopposed and deemed elected to his second term in District 38, which covers north Brownsville, San Benito and part of Harlingen.
“The Lucios, like most state politicians, don’t need campaign money to fight off election opponents. Most do not have opponents,” said Craig McDonald, director of Texan for Public Justice.
The Austin-based political watchdog group tracks influence of money in politics. McDonald said campaign laws are too lenient when it comes to fundraising and campaign spending — particularly when there is no campaign.
He believes contributions corrupt the system with funds used instead to “enhance” politicians’ lives as they carry on their “so-called” tasks of office. “Regrettably, that is what much of the money is used for,” he said.
Legislators receive a $600 monthly stipend from the state plus $128 a day when the legislature is in session.
According to campaign finance reports, contribution dollars pay anything from maid service to office supplies. Other expenses common to the Lucios, like many legislators, include gifts to fellow lawmakers and constituents, donations, dining, staff bonuses, entertaining, traveling, fundraisers, apartments, utilities, furniture, cell telephones and campaign vehicles.
“It takes money to be able to do this job,” explained Paul Cowen, a fixture in District 27 with many years of service as Sen. Lucio’s right-hand man and campaign treasurer.
And, “There are no special favors to anybody when it comes to contributions,” Cowen said. The senator, he asserts, “never looks at who is giving.”
If so, then Lucio Jr. might not have noticed a number of major donations from Houston magnate Bob J. Perry, a homebuilder that regularly gives to legislators on both sides of the aisle, though mostly generously to GOP faithful in Texas and across the country.
Perry tops the list of donors for both Lucios. Together, the father and son have received $105,500 from Perry through October 2007, split nearly in half between the two.
“Perry is a friend of the senator’s and he has known him for many years,” Cowen said. “Perry gives him contributions because he likes him.”
Asked if such sizable contributions created pressure for some quid pro quo, Lucio III says no.
“My morals and work ethic mean more than that,” he said and promised to reimburse money to any donor that expects anything other than hard work in return for their gift.
From August 2005 to December 2007, Lucio III raised nearly half a million dollars and spent $549,445. This is what Big League play requires, he said.
“We want to show that we are a serious candidate and not second class to representatives from Houston, Austin and Dallas. We will be considered top tier and we will be able to participate in a very meaningful way to make a difference in our state.”
Lucio III is “flattered” by the trust shown by donors and calls their support “an investment, so to speak.”
Other Republican-friendly contributors to the Lucios include Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a group that advocates civil liability limits and HillCo Partners, a lobbying firm, both of Austin.
Bob Perry donated $1.5 million to the lawsuit group’s PAC from 2000 to 2007, which in turn donates to candidates and officials and $1 million to HillCo from 2001 to 2007, which does the same, Texas Ethics Commission records show.
Campaign contributions to the senator from Republican-affiliated powerhouses show some mended fences from past political rifts.
Almost 15 years ago, a then junior Sen. Lucio was chastised by the Republican Party, particularly then-Sen. David Sibley, R-Waco, who denounced Lucio’s allegations against then-U.S. Senate candidate Kay Bailey Hutchison as “damnable,” “shameful,” and a “cheap political trick,” Herald archives reflect.
Lucio Jr. had accused Hutchison of offering a state job to a person in exchange for a political endorsement and called for an investigation. An angry confrontation in May 1993 caused a walkout on the Senate Floor.
“Have you no shame . . .?” an outraged Sibley asked Lucio Jr., who did not buckle. “The voters of Texas deserve to know the truth,” he rebutted.
Today, Sibley, a lobbyist, is a consistent supporter of both Lucios, donating to their campaigns since 2004.
Cowen, who spoke to The Herald in the senator’s stead, said big money fundraising isn’t unusual and even necessary.
His boss raised $1 million in 1990 for his campaign to unseat former Sen. Hector Uribe.
Before his senate win over Uribe, Lucio Jr. served two-terms in the Texas House (1987-90). Before that, he was a Cameron County commissioner and county treasurer.
To fight off a challenge to the District 27 seat, “would take a couple of million dollars today, easy,” Cowen said.
Besides, he said, “You can’t serve the people without having money.”
Aside from their stipend, the state allocates senators a budget to operate their offices and keep a staff.
But, “Let’s face it, there are a lot of office-holder expenses that are not reimbursed by the state; flags or flag boxes . . . every flag, every gavel. All that stuff costs thousands of dollars to give to the constituents,” he said of the usual gifts purchased by Lucio’s office.
There are also travel expenses and more basic needs. “The state does provide copy paper, but we run out at the most inconvenient of times,” he continued. “We have to keep things going for our constituency; no break in service … Everything adds up.”
There there’s the Holiday Season, Cowen said, when “everybody comes for a turkey.”
>Campaign contributions and expenditures reported by State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. from July 2000 through December 2007 and by State Rep. Eddie Lucio III from August 2005 through December 2007.
Contributions Expenditures Loans
-Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. $1,310,171 $1,343,169 $49,948
-Rep. Eddie Lucio III $481,728 $549,454 $86,174
*Note: Sen. Lucio has been unopposed through the eight-year period. Rep. Lucio was opposed one time.
Source: Data compiled by Emma Perez-Treviño from the Texas Ethics Commission.
Top donors to State. Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and/or his son State Rep. Eddie Lucio III combined.
-Homebuilder Bob J. Perry, Houston: $105,500
-Texans for Lawsuit Reform & Richard Weekley, Houston: $93,750
-Texas Association of Realtors, Austin: $40,000
-HillCo PAC, Austin: $35,000
-Liquor distribution interests, BG Distribution and Joe Bennett Glazer and R.I. Glazer with Glazer Distributing, Houston and Dallas: $24,250
-AT&T Texas PAC, Austin: $18,500
-Texas Friends of Time Warner Cable: $18,000
-Farmers Employee and Agent PAC, Austin: $15,500
-Independent Insurance Agents of Texas $11,750
-Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, Austin: $10,500
Source: Data compiled by Emma Perez-Treviño from the Texas Ethics Commission.