Power Surge: 

March 1, 2007

TXU’s Patronage Grid Plugs
All But Seven Lawmakers

One overlooked barrier to TXU Corp’s unraveling scheme to build 11 new dirty-coal plants across Texas may have been the company’s failure in the 2006 election cycle to deliver campaign checks to seven current members of the Texas Legislature.

While such wall-to-wall carpeting would be thorough for most corporations, this big polluter was pushing plans to blanket the state in whole new layers of smog. How could it afford to stiff even seven out of 181 legislators? It may have been an early warning sign that TXU needed new ownership.

Last week news surfaced that buyout firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Texas Pacific Group are seeking to acquire TXU in what would be the biggest buyout in history. To sweeten the deal they pledged to seek three new coal plants instead of 11.

The Texas legislators who went two long years without a TXU check tend to share certain traits. All of them are Democrats. No Republican lawmaker won office in November without TXU funding. And no senator of either party eluded TXU’s influence.

Six of the seven samurai lawmakers hail from districts that flunk federal air standards—or are in danger of doing so.1 While many lawmakers from bad-air districts took TXU money, those in smoggy districts were the most likely to forego TXU cash.

TXU also preferred incumbents. Although incumbents won 86 percent of all legislative races, TXU failed to contribute to just three returning lawmakers.

Lawmakers Subsisting Without A TXU Stipend

Unplugged Lawmaker
Party  Home District’s Air
Quality Status
Status (2006)
H-47  Valinda Bolton D  Austin Near Flunking Open seat
H-85  Joe Heflin D  Crosbyton Clear Open seat
H-90  Lon Burnam D  Fort Worth Flunks Incumbent
H-107  Allen Vaught D  Dallas Flunks Challenger
H-110  Barbara Mallory D  Dallas Flunks Challenger
H-141  Senfronia Thompson D  Houston Flunks Incumbent
H-148  Jessica Farrar D  Houston Flunks Incumbent


TXU’s PAC Power

The seven lawmakers who did not receive TXU money are aberrations. TXU PACs and officials made $841,501 in state political donations in the last cycle, including $770,757 contributed directly to 219 candidates.  Most TXU money (72 percent) moved through four PACs affiliated with the power company. The rest came from TXU executives, led by former TXU chief Erle Nye (23 percent).


Top TXU Donors, 2005-2006

Amount  TXU Donor  City  Title/Description
$604,640  TXU PACs*  Dallas  Four TXU PACs*
$196,500  Erle A. Nye  Dallas  Retired Chair & CEO
$14,000  Charles Wilder  Dallas  CEO & President
$6,500  Jerome S. Farrington  Dallas  Retired Chair & CEO
$3,405  Brenda Louise Jackson  Dallas  Sr. Vice President
$3,106  Jerry Lee  Glen Rose  Government Affairs
$2,600  Curtis Seidlits  Austin  Vice President & lobbyist
$2,250  Michael McCall  Southlake  Chair & CEO TXU Wholesale
* TXU’s Employee PAC, Electric Delivery PAC, Power & Energy PAC and Corporate PAC.
Note: TXU executive totals exclude what they gave to TXU PACs to avoid double counting.

Partisan Breakdown
of TXU Contributions

Amount In
2006 Cycle
of Total

TXU donors gave 82 percent of their money to Republicans; Democrats settled for the remaining 18 percent. The average winning House candidate received $2,124 from TXU PACs and executives. TXU-related donors gave winning Senators an average of $5,174.

TXU Donations
To Rick Perry

TXU Perry

By far the largest recipient of TXU money was Governor Rick Perry, who received $104,000 from TXU sources in the 2006 election cycle. TXU donors have given Perry $404,100 since his 1998 lieutenant governor campaign. Perry issued an executive order in October 2005 to fast-track environmental hearings on TXU’s proposed new coal plants. Reaching a preliminary finding that state agencies are not subject to gubernatorial orders, a state district judge this month ordered the state officials conducting the coal plant hearings to ignore Perry’s order.

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst ($62,250) and House Speaker Tom Craddick ($35,000) were the next-largest recipients of TXU’s largesse in the 2006 cycle.

TXU’s favorite rank-and-file lawmaker was Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas), a hometown senator who does not sit on any TXU-crucial committees ($16,000 from TXU).

Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) ran a close second ($15,493). Fraser has been a big proponent of Texas’ 1999 deregulation of electricity markets—whereby power companies outmaneuvered lawmakers. Late last year Fraser complained about electricity rates shooting up after deregulation rather than falling as promised. Calling TXU “a big part of the problem,” Fraser told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram “there are market participants who have too much market power.”2

In the House, TXU favored Regulated Industries Committee Chair Phil King, R-Weatherford ($10,000), another deregulation champion. “We’re not going to go back and re-regulate,” the same Star-Telegram story quoted King saying. “The toothpaste is already out of the tube with deregulation. But we’ve got to make some substantial changes.”

Top Recipients of TXU Money, 2005-2006

 Candidate Party  Office Held/Sought
 Rick Perry R  Governor
 David Dewhurst R  Lt. Governor
 Tom Craddick R  House-82
 Susan Combs R  Comptroller
 Royce West D  Senate-23
 †Troy Fraser R  Senate-24
 Steve Ogden R  Senate-5
 Greg Abbott R  Attorney General
 †Kip Averitt R  Senate-22
 Michael Williams R  Railroad Com.
 †Phil King R  House-61
†Sat on one or more TXU-crucial committees during the 2006 cycle.
These are: Senate Natural Resources and Business & Commerce;
and House Enviro. Regulation, Regulated Industries and Energy Resources.

Link to table listing all recipients of TXU money

Apart from supporting candidates, TXU PACs and executives also contributed a total of $70,744 to 21 general-purpose PACs led by the two dominant state political party PACs. TXU donors gave a total of $24,790 to Republican affiliated PACs and $12,750 to Democratic aligned PACs. Other top recipients include the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and a local Electrical Workers union that received TXU PAC money.

Top General Purpose PACs
Reporting TXU-Tied Money

TXU Amount
(’06 Cycle)
 General Purpose PAC
 Texas Republican Party
 Texas Democratic Party
 Int’l Brotherhood Electrical Workers Local 2337
 Mexican American Legislative Caucus
 Citizens For A Better Fort Worth
 Texas Conservative Coalition
 Associated Republicans of Texas
 Texas Republican Legislative Caucus
 Legislative Study Group (Democratic)

TXU PAC Expenditures (1994-2006 Election Cycles)

TX Employee
Power &
Energy PAC
Delivery PAC
& Pipeline
Note: TXU PAC expenditures exceed what candidates received from TXU PACs
since state campaign donations are not the only expenditures that PACs make.


Power politics is nothing new for TXU. Its PACs have spent almost $4.6 million to influence Texas politics since the 1994 election cycle. The company has burning issues before the legislature constantly. Recent highlights include deregulation of Texas’ electricity markets during the 2000 election cycle and the scandal over exemptions freeing filthy “grandfathered” industrial plants from rules mandating the use of modern pollution controls. That scandal peaked during the 1996 and 1998 election cycles.


The TXU Lobby

TXU also exerts a potent lobby influence, traditionally ranking as the state’s No. 2 lobby force after AT&T. TXU has spent up to $24 million on 674 state lobby contracts since 1993. Lobby spending tends to peak in odd-numbered years when the Texas Legislature convenes in regular sessions. Although special interests generally add more lobby contracts as the year progresses, the up to $3.3 million that TXU had spent on 60 lobbyists by late February 2007 already exceeded what it had spent in any previous year.

TXU Corp.’s Lobby Contracts

Min Value
of Contracts
Max. Value
of Contracts
No. of
*As of February 23, 2007.

TXU’s top in-house lobbyists are Mark Malone and former lawmaker Curtis Seidlits. These and other TXU lobbyists have showered lawmakers in gifts. Malone and Seidlits chipped in with other TXU lobbyists in 2005 to give a $300 saddle to Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) and a $200 bench to House Environmental Regulation Committee Chair Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton).

That same year Malone bought dinner for Sen. Fraser and his entourage when they were TXU’s guests at the Masters golf tournament in Georgia. Malone also gave a $50 gun to House Natural Resources Committee member Harvey Hilderbran (R-Kerrville) and a $100 jacket to Rep. Carl Isett (R-Lubbock).

Three other TXU lobbyists paid “deer processing” costs for House Environmental Regulation Committee Vice Chair Charlie Howard (R-Sugar Land) and House Energy Resources Committee Chair Buddy West (R-Odessa). TXU lobbyists also processed dead deer for Reps. Isett and Warren Chisum (R-Pampa), as well as for House Regulated Industries counsel Jake Posey. TXU lobbyist Paul Blanton similarly paid a $300 taxidermy tab for Sen. Kim Brimer (R-Fort Worth).

TXU’s highest-paid contract lobbyists are Ron Kirk and Dennis Thomas. Thomas is a former chair of the Texas Public Utility Commission. Kirk, now at Vinson & Elkins, is a former Dallas mayor and Texas secretary of state.

TXU’s Highest Paid Current Lobbyists

 Lobbyist  Firm
Min. Value
of Contracts
Max. Value
of Contracts
 Curtis Seidlits Jr.  TXU
 Mark Malone  TXU
 Ronald Kirk  Vinson & Elkins
 Dennis Thomas  Self

Other revolving-door lobbyists on TXU retainers include former lawmakers Eddie Cavazos, Toby Goodman, Paul Sadler and Stan Schlueter. Chris Shields, a one-time legislative director to then-Governor Bill Clements, also lobbies for TXU, as does former Railroad Commissioner Barry Williamson.

No matter how much TXU has trashed Texas skies, state officials considering future lobby careers must think twice before challenging one of Austin’s biggest special interests. ■

1 The Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas are so-called “nonattainment” areas that flunk federal air-quality standards for ozone—a major ingredient in smog. Austin is a “near nonattainment” area that is close to flunking federal ozone standards.
2 Senator Takes Aim at TXU,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, December 8, 2006.