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Strayhorn stops state payments to lobby group

You may recall that Comptroller Strayhorn had announced an audit of payments to the lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates by the state’s Office of Federal and State Relations (OFSR) after the Chron broke a story about C&A’s funneling money back to the Republican Party via campaign contributions. Yesterday, Strayhorn took the next step and suspended the state’s payments to C&A.

“During the early stages of my expenditure audit of the contract with Cassidy & Associates, enough questions have been raised and I have found sufficient reason to indefinitely stop all payments to the firm,” Strayhorn said.

She said Texas law prohibits the use of taxpayer money to lobby the Legislature, influence elections or support candidates at the state or federal level.

Strayhorn said Texas should not be paying outside contract lobbyists to promote state issues with Congress.

“By any measure, using tax dollars to pay a private firm to lobby the federal government or members of Congress is a wholly inappropriate and unwise use of public money,” Strayhorn said.

Cassidy, based in Washington, D.C., is not the state’s only contract lobbyist. The state-federal relations office also pays $15,000 a month to the Federalist Group, also Washington-based. That firm’s lead lobbyist is Drew Maloney, a former top aide to [Rep. Tom] DeLay, R-Sugar Land.

Philip wonders why Strayhorn, whom he criticizes for being silent on this issue until it was politically expedient for her to speak out, didn’t also suspend payments to Maloney. I’d say it’s probably because there isn’t any evidence at this time that Maloney kicked back to his benefactors like C&A did, even though Maloney was allegedly hired at DeLay’s insistence.

The rest of the article is much huffing and puffing about the politics of the situation. Of course this is a political move on Strayhorn’s part. She knows the value of a headline like this. I think if she really wanted to maximize the effect, she might’ve timed the release to be either closer to the announcement of the April 17 special session, or closer to the actual start of the session. Be that as it may, and keeping Philip’s comments in mind, I think she was right to take this action. I just wish more attention had been paid to this cozy little arrangement from the beginning.

UPDATE: I’d say this helps explain why Strayhorn picked on one state-funded lobbyist group and not the other:

At least one of Maloney’s Federalist Group partners, Wayne Berman, contributed $5,000 to the Strayhorn campaign on October 19, 2002. (Source: Texas Ethics Commission)

Well, there you go. Thanks to Philip for the catch.

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