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Politicians come and go, but campaign cash is forever

It seems that way, anyway. With the defeat of several incumbents in last week’s primaries, there’s a lot more unneeded campaign war chests lying around.

Millions in unspent contributions have long lurked in former state lawmakers’ campaign bank accounts, often sitting idle until the cash eventually works its way back into the political system. There are several ways to legally get rid of the extra money, but in many cases, the former lawmakers use it to expand their spheres of influence.

Now about $1 million more in unspent cash could soon be added to the total with the primary election losses last week of Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands; Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller; and other members of the Texas Legislature.

When lawmakers return to being private citizens — whether it’s their decision or voters’ — they have a few options for dealing with leftover campaign cash. They may donate it to charity, nonprofit organizations, political parties, other candidates, political action committees, universities or the state treasury. They may also return the money to their contributors or hold on to it for a future run for office.

But one thing is for sure: They are barred from using the donations for personal spending.

Steve Wolens

Eissler and Truitt each said it’s a little too early to know what they will do with their excess campaign cash, which recently amounted to about $650,000 and $240,000, respectively, according to filings with the Texas Ethics Commission.


Steven Wolens, a former House member and husband of former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, isn’t a lobbyist, but he is another example of a former lawmaker with more than $1 million on hand.

Wolens, a lawyer and Democrat from Dallas, said he might use his $1.2 million in another run for public office, if and when the time is right.

Wolens, as I have noted before, last ran for office in 2002. I don’t know what other offices he might be thinking about running for – his website is still living in the past – I just know that he’s not rushing into anything. Former Congressman Jim Turner, who also last ran for something in 2002, also has a million bucks in the bank for reasons known only to him. Sure would be nice if some of that money found its way to people who were actually running for something, wouldn’t it? Anyway, Reps. Eissler and Truitt, take all the time you need. That cash isn’t going anywhere without you.

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One Comment

  1. […] the Chron story is about former federal officeholders, this is an issue at the state level, too. I thought there was a state law that required all funds to be disbursed within a set period […]