Here's another reason why we may continue to have special sessions, regardless of their actual legislative utility: Campaign fundraisers held during special sessions are very lucrative, at least for some people.
Three top state officeholders together collected more than $1 million for their campaign war chests during the recent special legislative session, according to reports filed Wednesday with the Texas Ethics Commission. Thanks to reader Michael for the heads-up on the first article.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst raised the most – nearly $540,000. He held four fund-raisers and one appreciation luncheon for past donors during the special session on school finance.
The session ended May 17, two days early and without a school finance plan.
Gov. Rick Perry, who called the session, held three fund-raisers, including one on the night after the House gutted a bill to cut property taxes and change how schools are funded.
He added almost $450,000 to his political coffers.
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who postponed all her out-of-town fund-raisers during the special session, held one in Austin. She raised nearly $130,000.
State law bars officeholders from raising money during regular legislative sessions to prevent attempts at influence peddling, but no such law applies to the 30-day special sessions that can be called by the governor. Special sessions trigger a reporting requirement, but the officeholders and candidates don't have to paint a complete picture.
Even with all of that, it's not enough to make Governor Perry the top cash hoarder in the state.
Two high-profile Republicans who may run for Texas governor in 2006 have piles of campaign money, which they had to disclose this week.
But Gov. Rick Perry's $4.4 million balance and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's $3.2 million look modest next to the stack that belongs to a third possible GOP contender – U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Her campaign kitty had more than $6.5 million on hand as of March 31.
The question is whether Ms. Hutchison could transfer money raised for federal office to fund a run for governor.
For many years, federal officeholders could do so. But the McCain-Feingold legislation that Congress passed two years ago deleted from a list of permissible uses of campaign funds the phrase "for any other lawful purpose."
The Federal Election Commission used to cite the language to allow transfer of unspent money to local races and recently urged Congress to restore it.
"It may be they didn't intend to take it out, but it's out," said commission spokesman Ian Stirton.
He said he now ducks questions about using congressional war chests to run for state office back home "because we don't have that provision in our regulation anymore."