Texas politicos open wallets for friendsBy Enrique Rangel
Sunday, January 25, 2009
AUSTIN - Last year, when he was fighting for his political life, Fort Worth's state Sen. Kim Brimer got lots of help from his friends, including Republican colleagues Kel Seliger of Amarillo Robert Duncan of Lubbock.
Brimer, who ended up losing his Senate District 10 seat to Democratic challenger Wendy Davis, received $10,000 from Duncan and $5,000 from Seliger in the closing weeks of the heated campaign. Brimer spent more than $2 million fighting for the seat.
In the Texas House, Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, needed all the help she could get to narrowly defeat challenger Bob Romano after a hard-fought recount. Many of her GOP colleagues, including Reps. Warren Chisum of Pampa and Carl Isett of Lubbock, answered her call. Chisum sent her a $5,000 check and Isett $1,500 just for the recall legal battle.
Even those with little or no opposition get help from help from fellow legislators. Duncan, for example, donated smaller amounts to the campaigns of Isett and Rep. Delwin Jones, both Lubbock Republicans, too.
Duncan said it is in a lawmaker's best interest to help their colleagues get re-elected.
"Kim Brimer was an ally for our part of the state for some of the issues that were important to the constituents of West Texas," Duncan said of his long-time colleague who served in the Legislature 20 years, the last six in the Senate.
"I certainly supported him," Duncan said. "It's nothing against his opponent - it's just that he was an ally on many issues and I thought worthy of the support from a senator from West Texas."
Duncan said he also supported the re-election bid of Republican colleague Mike Jackson in Senate District 11, one of three seats Democrats thought they could win in November but didn't.
"Mike serves in my (Senate State Affairs) Committee and he has assisted us on many things and I certainly didn't want to lose him," he explained. "So, I wanted to contribute to his re-election."
Seliger said he helps other colleagues for the same reason.
"When you serve in the Texas Legislature you develop working relationships with your colleagues and it is in your best interest to see that they get re-elected," Seliger said.
Andrew Wheat of Texans for Public Justice, an Austin-based watchdog group which advocates for limiting campaign contributions, said lawmakers helping other lawmakers is common in Texas.
"We've seen a lot of campaigns helping other campaigns," Wheat said. "That's not the most offensive thing we've seen."