February 5, 1999
New 'Revolvers' In '99 Lobby

Austin¾Initial 1999 Texas Ethics Commission records reveal that four of 26 newly retired Texas legislators already have registered to lobby.

Earlier this week Texans for Public Justice released a report (Texas Revolvers)  tracking 110 1997 revolving-door lobbyists, including 91 ex-legislators.

Four ex-Democratic House members who did not seek re-election last November are now registered lobbyists: Hugo Berlanga (Corpus), Keith Oakley (Terrell), Allen Place (Gatesville) and Gerard Torres (Houston).

'98 Legislators in the '99 Lobby
Ex-Lege Revolver Max. '99 Value Clients Hometown
Hugo Berlanga $625,000 8 Corpus Christi
Keith Oakley $135,000 3 Terrell
Allen Place $125,000 3 Gatesville
Gerard Torres $50,000 1 Houston
Total $935,000 15  

These ex-legislators¾who received a $7,200 salary in the House¾report one hell of a personal stock pop in their initial private offering (IPO) of themselves to special-interest clients.

Together, they reported a combined 1999 lobby income of up to $935,000.

This income was unevenly distributed, ranging from the up to $625,000 that Berlanga reported from eight clients, to a maximum of $50,000 that Torres reported from a single source: utility Houston Industries.
Hugo Berlanga
'99 Clients Max. Value 
AT&T $100,000
City of Austin $100,000
City of Corpus Christi $100,000
Driscoll Children's Hospital $100,000
DuPont Pharmaceuticals $100,000
Sagem Morpho $50,000
Waste Control Specialists $50,000
Advanced Practice Nurses $25,000
Total $625,000

The new lobbyists' clients frequently reflect their former committee assignments. Ex-Public Health Committee Chair Hugo Berlanga's new clients include such health-related interests as Driscoll Children's Hospital, DuPont Pharmaceuticals and the Coalition for Advanced Practice Nurses. (Client Sagem Morpho is a company with a Texas Department of Human Services contract to detect welfare fraud with a digital fingerprinting system).

Keith Oakley
'99 Clients Max. Value 
TX Utilities Services $100,000
Assoc. Security Services $25,000
TX Assoc. of Mid-Sized Schools $10,000
Total $135,000

Ex-Public Safety Committee Chair Keith Oakley represents the Associated Security Services and Investigators. The Criminal Defense Lawyers Assoc. hired ex-Criminal Jurisprudence Chair Allen Place. Finally, a utility hired ex-Energy Resources Vice Chair Gerard Torres.
Allen Place
'99 Clients Max. Value 
TX Criminal Def. Lawyers Assoc. $50,000
TX Municipal League $50,000
City of Katy $25,000
Total $125,000

Another leading revolving-door new-comer did not serve in the Legislature, though Texas Revolvers identified his new boss as the highest-billing ex-legislator in the 1997 lobby.

In 1998, revolver Neal "Buddy" Jones hired then-Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) Executive Director Dan Pearson. This was a coup for Jones, whose top 1997 client was Garwood Irrigation. In 1998, TNRCC Commissioners approved a controversial $16 million Garwood "inter-basin transfer" request to funnel 11 billion gallons of water rights from the Colorado River to Corpus Christi .

TNRCC staff developed their recommendation to support the deal under Pearson, who left the agency to join Jones three months before the Commissioners approved the deal in October 1998. With the deal floated past the TNRCC, Jones' 1999 Garwood contract dropped from a maximum of $200,000 in 1997 to a maximum of $10,000 in 1999.

As the 1999 session heats up, more new revolver faces are expected to resurface in the lobby. Stay tuned.

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

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