A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, introduced a bill Monday to tighten the state's restrictions on corporate and union money in Texas politics. But the bill has no support with the Legislature's Republican leadership.
The legislation would ban corporate contributions to political committees not directly affiliated with the corporation. It also would ban corporate money from being used in advertising designed to influence a primary or general election.
"In Texas, we made the decision we're going to have naming rights for corporations to our baseball stadiums, our basketball arenas, our football fields," Eiland said. "But we don't need to authorize corporate naming rights to politicians and elected officials."
The bill is sponsored in the House by Eiland and Rep. Todd Smith, R-Bedford. In the Senate, it is sponsored by Sens. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock.
More than 60 public-interest groups announced support for the bill. Among them are the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention, the AARP and Common Cause.
Smith said the magic-words test, the cornerstone of the legal defense by the state business group, should not allow the use of secret corporate money to finance attack ads in the last weeks of a campaign. He quoted a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision as saying the magic-words test is "functionally meaningless."
"A magic-word test would destroy both our 100-year-old prohibition against big union and corporate contributions and our disclosure law," Smith said.
The bill would prohibit corporate or union money from being used to advocate the election or defeat of a candidate, regardless of whether the magic words are used. It would allow the money to be spent on a political committee's overhead — such as office rent, phones and clerical salaries — but would bar using it for political consulting, phone banks or campaign fund raising.
State Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, added concerns about out-of-state money being used for attack ads.
Hinojosa and state Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, are committed to leading the reform effort in the Senate, though no Senate bill has been introduced concerning the issue.
State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, defeated Jack Stick, a major recipient of TRMPAC funds, to win his seat in the House. Strama has experience working with Rock the Vote, an organization dedicated to increasing youth voter turnout.
"One of the biggest reasons they chose not to vote was because they felt corporate money was more important to candidates than their vote," he said. "Money has become way too important in the political system."
Eiland admitted the bill does not cover all issues related to campaign finance reform, such as unregulated money for issue ads, made famous by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads that questioned the integrity of presidential candidate John Kerry.