February 4, 1999
Cashing in on Public Service

Austin: Many of Texas’ most influential and best-paid special-interest lobby-ists were public servants before they spun through the “revolving door,” a new study by TPJ finds.

TPJ identified 110 former legislators and agency officials who were paid to  lobby in 1997. The report, Texas Revolvers, profiles the top-10 lobbyists in each category and their biggest clients.

The report concludes that the Texas Legislature has become an elite, publicly-financed finishing school for lobbyists. Of the 110 revolver lobbyists, 91 were legislators, including three former House Speakers: Gib Lewis, Billy Clayton and Rayford Price.

In 1997 Lewis reaped up to $1.5 million from his clients, including nursing home operator Horzion/ CMS Healthcare. The Texas Dept. of Human Services has investigated 101 complaints against five of Horizon’s 28 Texas homes. DHS has twice threatened to close each of the five homes and slapped them with $206,720 in fines.

Six of the 110 “revolvers” were legislative officers, including former Sergeant-at-Arms Rusty Kelley.

Kelley’s clients paid him up to $2.7 million in 1997. Kelley greased the wheels for such clients as an asbestos maker, HMOs, and a billboard association whose members have a heavy stake in cigarette advertising.
The 110 revolvers com-mand a hefty influence-peddling premium. While the average lobbyist reported a maximum income of $126,000, the average revolver pocketed 397,000.

62% of the lawmakers turned lobbyists supple-ment their lucrative lobby incomes with state pension checks. The average revolver received a $25,430 annual pension from tax-payers in 1997— more than Texas’ average per capita income ($22,045).

Buddy Jones, Gib Lewis’ former chief of staff and a one-term representative, appears to have been even more successful in the lobby than his old boss.

Jones netted up to $1.8 million from 50 clients. In 1998 he helped cement the TNRCC’s already close relationship with industry when he recruited then-TNRCC executive director Dan Pearson to join him.

Many of Jones’ clients are regulated by the TNRCC, including big polluters like Pilgrims’ Pride, controversial cement maker Texas Industries, and ALCOA, whose Rockdale plant was Texas’ single biggest source of grandfathered air pollution in 1997.

Prior to leaving his post, Pearson had oversight of staff recommendations regarding work on a massive inter-basin transfer of water from Garwood Irrigation’s Colorado River supply to Corpus Christi.
Last October the TNRCC commissioners approved the transfer. As Jones’ top client in 1997, Garwood paid him up to $200,000.

Another state agency that has been criticized for its cozy relationship with the industry it regulates is the Texas Department of Insurance. Two lobbyists who help state officials see eye to eye with industry are former Insurance Commissioners Woody Pogue and Tom Bond.

Pogue and Bond both reported 1997 lobby contracts worth up to $2.8 million. While they may actuually be sharing the contracts that both report as their own, they still make a bundle hustling for insurance heavyweights such as Prudential, Liberty Mutual, and the Texas HMO Association.

Apologists for Texas’ lobby elite might say that closing the revolving door will discourage some people from entering public service. But those are the very people that should be discouraged.

Texas Revolvers, an easy read at 49 pages, can be downloaded from the Texans for Public Justice website at: http//www.tpj.org/reports/reports.html.

 Top 10 Revolvers
(based on '97 Contracts)
Ex-Officio Lobbyist Max. Value Ex-Office
Woody Pogue $2,820,000 Insur. Com
Thomas J. Bond $2,810,000 Insur. Com
Rusty Kelley $2,680,000 Sarg-At-Arms
Buddy Jones $1,825,000 State Rep. 
Mack Wallace $1,630,000 Railroad Com.
Gib Lewis  $1,485,000 House Speaker
Mary Scott Nabers* $1,445,000 Railroad Com
Mike Toomey $1,405,000 State Rep.
Don Adams $1,225,000 State Sen.
John W. Fainter Jr. $1,100,000 Sec. of State
*Also served in Legislature.


# # #
Texans for Public Justice is a non-partisan, non-profit policy & research organization
 which tracks the influence of money in politics.

Lobby Watch | home