Naked City

Parties PAC It in

Political action committees (PACs) spent $54 million dollars trying to influence government and elections in Texas during the two-year 2000 election cycle, and most of it came from businesses. That's the conclusion of a recent report from Texans for Public Justice, a nonpartisan (but definitely liberal-leaning) nonprofit that monitors the role of money in Lone Star politics.

Based on PAC filings with the Texas Ethics Commission, TPJ's report, titled Texas PACs: 2000 Election Cycle, breaks PAC spending into three major categories: business, ideological/ single issue, and labor. By far, business led the way in 2000 with $34 million, double the amount spent by ideological PACs. In this right-to-work state, labor lagged far behind at less than $3 million; most of that came from public-sector employees such as firefighters and cops, not employees of the aforementioned private-sector businesses. TPJ puts the total dollar amount in perspective by noting that Texas' statewide and legislative candidates raised a total of $67.2 million in 2000.

Among businesses, lawyers and lobbyists were the biggest spenders at $8 million, followed by energy and natural resources interests ($6 million) and health care companies ($3 million). In the ideological category, Democratic PACs ($8 million) outspent Republican ones ($6 million). Though in contrast to national trends, this is nothing new in Texas, as the Texas Democratic Party has been the top spender of all PACs for the last three election cycles. That's rather pathetic, considering that the GOP seized all statewide elected offices during that period. After the two major political parties, tort law PACs (funded by businesses trying to limit the amounts for which they can be sued) followed at $1.5 million. All but $60,391 of that came from Texans for Lawsuit Reform.

Of course, some of this money is counted twice. Lawyer spending increased by 24% over 1998 due to a surge of trial lawyer spending (most notably the Texas 2000 PAC). And of course, most of that money went to the Texas Democratic Party, which then tallied those dollars in its own spending.

As for Texas' top political spenders, the report lists the 100 biggest PACs in the state. Six reached the million-plus threshold (dollar amounts in millions):

Texas Democratic Party: $6.0

Republican Party of Texas: $2.7

Texas 2000: $2.0

Texas Association of Realtors: $1.5

Texans for Lawsuit Reform: $1.4

Associated Republicans of Texas: $1.3

To read the full report, go to www.tpj.org or call 472-9770.

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