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It's a truism that running for office is expensive and getting more expensive every year. Sure media and printing costs cost more money, and postage costs seem to increase every time you send out mail. But the real issue behind the inflation in campaigns are two fold.
One more folks are willing to spend more and more of their own money to get elected. Unless we are willing to concede public office only to those who can afford it, then other candidates must try to raise ever increasing sums to keep up.
Also as campaigns and the issues become more polarized, they attract out of town money. It's not unusual for a candidate in Collin County to run a campaign costing thousands of dollars, most of which was raised out of county. But on the whole local campaigns are still affordable to anyone with a political base who is willing to raise the needed funds.
For example, in the hotly contested primary battle for County Commissioner in Precinct 2, the winner Cheryl Williams spent about $67,000 while Jerry Hoagland spent $76,000. The difference is that Hoagland's campaign was financed by contributions, while Williams' campaign still owes her the $50,000 she loaned the campaign.
The County Judge's primary race cost challenger John Muns over $204,000 of which $80,000 was in loans to himself, while Keith Self spent $114,000 -- all donated.
These numbers, as large as they may seem to a potential candidate, are dwarfed in the race for State Legislature. Seats on the legislature have become very, very expensive.
The press has written much about Van Taylor and his $1.04 million primary race. Very little of that million was raised in-district. $950,000 of it was his own money, and much of the rest was from out of town donors. Mabrie Jackson too, lent herself $80,000 out of the $362,000 she spent trying to defeat Mr. Taylor's money.
While the District 66 Million Dollar Race has garnered the most media attention, it is the other legislative races that have brought in the big, outside dollars.
What other legislative races? The unopposed ones.
The war chests of our incumbant legislators are both bloated and stunning in their scope. It is ironic that thee legislators, whose pay is a measly $7,200 a year can amass campaign dollars in the hundreds of thousands, even though they are unopposed in both the primary and general elections.
|Legislator||Cash on hand
(net of debt)
|Rep. Ken Paxton||$679,161.00|
|Sen. Florence Shapiro||$544,436.00|
|Rep. Jodi Laubenberg||$285,886.00|
|Sen. Craig Estes||$160,604.00|
|Rep. Jerry Madden||$4,557.00|
|Rep. Van Taylor||($885,755.00)|
A look at their campaign finance reports over time proves the fact that these large sums were not raised by loyal in-district constituents. On the contrary, these huge campaign war chests represent the donations from PACs, special interest lobby groups and rich out of town contributors.
Rep. Ken Paxton owns the largest campaign war chest -- over $679,000. Over the last six months, he has added over $35,000 to his campaign, including a $4,000 gift from the AT&T PAC, $1,000 from an Irving, Tx contributor, $5,000 from a Richardson real estate broker, $1,000 from the Tenet Healthcare PAC, $1,000 from the Texas Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store PAC, $3,000 from Unity Resources, and $5,000 and $1,000 from in-district constituents.
During the first half of the year, he raised over $122,000. The big contributors were once again mostly out of towners and Corporate PACs.
Rep. Paxton is certainly not the only state representative to rely on outside interests to fund his campaign account. Without exception, all the large war chests I examined were funded in a similar manner.
These state legislators campaign war chests even dwarf all but one local Congressional accounts. Federal records show that while Rep. Sam Johnson (who is unopposed) has amassed over $600,000 in campaign dollars, Ralph Hall (who did face primary opposition) has less than $25,000 on hand. Sen. John Cornyn has only about $18,000 on hand.
Some critics of Texas' system for campaign contributions argue that our system, in effect, offers up seats in the Legislature to the highest bidder. If so, our Collin County Reps should feel secure in knowing that thanks to their friendly PACs, they have the means to out bid all but the most determined millionaire candidate.
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