Austin — In the last days of the 1999 legislative session, omissions and dubious information still pepper some lobby registrations filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. Some of these filings appear to violate the spirit of state lobby disclosure laws.
Many lobby reports fail to disclose how much money a lobbyist is receiving from a client, either by leaving this section of the report blank or by reporting the maximum value as zero.
In 1999, 117 lobbyists reported a maximum income of “$0” for one or more lobby contracts. While it is noble of hired guns to engage in charitable acts, the vast majority of these purportedly free services benefit well heeled corporate clients that do not appear to require pro bono services.
To qualify as Texas’ leading pro bono corporate lobbyist you have to be driven. Lloyd E. Ferguson reported a big goose egg as his maximum income on all nine of his “prospective” 1999 lobby contracts. All of these contracts were with auto industry luminaries, including such hard-luck cases as BMW, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz.
Ex-Senator Bob McFarland also reported a maximum income of nothing for all eight of his “paid” contracts. His clients include such paupers as GTE, the American Insurance Association, the Texas Credit Union League and Six Flags Over Texas.
McFarland obfuscated disclosure of the subjects he is lobbying on by alternately failing to check any of the 83 “subject matter categories” on his filings or checking all of them.
Four Jenkens & Gilchrist lobbyists (Shannon Lea Swan, Jay Brown, Galt Graydon and Machree Garrett Gibson) reported contracts with an overlapping pool of clients for which they reported no income.
One of these clients, the Texas Children’s Hospital, has a pro bono ring to it. But many of their other zero-value clients are dubious candidates for charity: The Association of Electric Companies, Jim Walter Homes, Longhorn Partners Pipeline, Coors Brewing, Information Systems & Networks, Diamond Shamrock and EZ Pawn.
Brad T. Shields reported no income from five “paid” contracts. These were Charter Medical Corp., GameWorks, Green Spring Health Services, MCA Corp. and Universal Studios.
Mignon McGarry reported a maximum value of zero for “paid” contracts with such clients as Monsanto, the Recycling Council of Texas and W.L. Hailey and Co. A spokesperson in her office assured Lobby Watch that these are not pro bono con-tracts and that all the income will be reported upon payment.
Texas’ single biggest lobby force, Southwestern Bell, also retained ostensibly toll-free lobbyists. Larry E. Schnieders reported five “prospective” contracts with Bell, each listing a maximum value of zero.
Ten other Bell lobbyists left the contract value field blank in their lobby filings.1
A total of 63 lobbyists left the income section of their lobby report blank for at least one client (often the only client they reported).
Nancy Fisher made herself con-spicuous in this crowd by not reporting the value of seven of her nine contracts with title insurance companies.
Fisher said she did not know the values of the contracts when she first filed but has updated her disclosure after a Lobby Watch inquiry. “I appreciate you checking up on me,” she said. [Lobby Watch provides this service to corporate lobbyists pro bono.]
CSC Credit Services employees John A. McGee and Michael J. Tavey also failed to report their lobby incomes.
In case his creditors are interested, Tavey said lobbying accounts for about half of his CSC duties, which translates into a prorated lobby income of about $45,000.
Texas’ lobby disclosure laws give lobbyists three income-reporting options. They can report compensation actually paid, compensation earned as of the date of filing or promised compensation—regardless of whether it is earned or paid.
Note that some lobbyists who do not report their income until this money is paid will not disclose that particular money trail until the Legislative session is over. Prompt, effective disclosure would serve more than the historical record.
Finally, 63 lobbyists flaunted not only the spirit but also the letter of Texas lobby laws by leaving the income disclosure section of one or more lobby filing blank. •
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