A bill to limit campaign contributions to $100,000 per individual for state races has been filed.
At a morning news conference flanked by a dozen or so of his colleagues, including five Republicans, House Bill 110 co-author Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, spoke about his plan.
He said it represented a first step in limiting the influence of a handful of wealthy individuals whose power stems not from "the virtue of their ideals or the strength of their grassroots network but because they spend million of dollars."
Standing behind Villarreal was outgoing Rep. Carter Casteel, R-New Braunfels, one of two incumbents who lost to Leininger-funded candidates. She said that as a schoolteacher, she taught her students that the Legislature was not for sale
Now, sadly, she said she realized maybe she'd been wrong.
"I never dreamed that in my Texas, a person would spend $1 million for a legislative seat," she said.
Eighty-seven individuals or couples gave $100,000 or more in contributions for statewide offices in 2003 and 2004, for a total of $28.8 million, according to the Austin-based watchdog group Texans for Public Justice. That represents about 9 percent of all political money raised during that two-year election cycle.
Advocates of campaign spending limits acknowledge that this plan, which caps contributions regardless of the number of candidates being supported, faces an uphill battle. Gov. Rick Perry opposes campaign limits and supports the state's current disclosure law. His approval is needed for legislation to be added to the current special session.
Also, an almost identical bill died last year without leaving committee.
Two weeks ago, the Express-News ran a four-part series on Texas lobbyists that identified the role wealthy special interests play in shaping policies affecting businesses, consumers and children in need of health care. Austin insiders expressed skepticism that a reform could pass.