Open for business

As the Austin American Statesman reminds us, there’s more than just redistricting going on in Austin right about now:

An Austin lobbyist took a look at his calendar for the next 30 days and sent a friend a tongue-in-cheek summary: “There are now 32 invitations for opportunities to participate in fund-raising receptions. I think I’ll go to them all — may I borrow your checkbook?”

During a regular session of the Legislature, members are barred from raising campaign contributions, an attempt at restricting the rawest way to influence law-making that marked a bygone era in Texas politics. No such rule exists during a special session. It’s open season on lobbyists’ expense accounts.

The special session on redistricting opens today, and with it, the doors to various fund-raising receptions for legislators brought back to Austin.

Because the session will be dominated at least at first by congressional redistricting, it means that a relative handful of legislators will be busy. Most of them will have plenty of time to hit up the lobby for golf, dinners, lunches and other forms of diversion while committees work out the details.

Granted, the Legislature isn’t the back-slapping collection of hard-drinking partiers that it was once was, but that many people with that much time on their hands is an invitation to mischief.

Maybe the Lege is different nowadays (I doubt it’s that different), but it wasn’t that long ago that Bo Pilgrim was handing out $10,000 checks on the Senate floor just before a vote about worker’s compensation came up. There’s a reason why fundraising during regular sessions is verboten, and with the business lobbyists’ gallery being called the “owner’s box” I’d say there’s at least as strong a reason for there to be a ban on fundraising during this or any special session. Hell, it was fundraising that gave rise to the conditions that led to this session. Of course, our lapdog Governor will never take such a bold step. It would be bad for his own business.

Thanks to Matt for the tip on the Statesman editorial.

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