AUSTIN (KXAN) — Even before the 2015 legislative session began, lobbyists were at work trying to sway votes and opinions.
“They’re the guys, or the women, who carry the money from one place to another so that the rest of us can feel like our hands are clean of a system that we all know is driven first and foremost by money,” said Jason Sabo, who founded a lobby firm called Frontera Strategy.
Sabo says he believes lobbying can be used for good.
“People tend to think about the big companies who are up there, but there’s also a role for pretty much everybody else too,” said Sabo.
A KXAN News analysis of registered lobbyists so far in 2015 found these are the organizations who have the most people working for them:
Dallas-based company Energy Future Holdings and its subsidiaries each appear in the top five.
Texans for Public Justice monitors the lobbying game. Research director Andrew Wheat says it’s not only the quantity of lobbyists that matter, but the quality.
“So these top lobbyists are the ones with the best connections, the closest relationships with the people who are calling the shots,” Wheat said.
Last legislative session, Tesla motors pushed to change the rules so it can sell cars directly in Texas.
“Tesla got nowhere. Why? Because it was coming up against hundreds of car dealerships all over the state,” Wheat said. “That is one of the most organized lobby interests in Texas.”
Lobbying ban for schools
In his campaign platform, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott called for some changes to the lobbying rules. Specifically, he wants to ban school districts from using tax dollars for lobbyists at the Capitol.
Abbott argues the elected officials and superintendents should represent their districts’ interests themselves.
Austin ISD for example has eight lobbyists registered with the state. Seven of them will likely make less than $10,000, but state documents say one of the AISD lobbyists could make up to $50,000.
Abbott’s staff said they will actively push to pass this and other policy proposals into law.