Our View: When did Texas approve public funding of political campaigns?

The SE Texas Record Oct. 14, 2014, 9:30am

As far as we know, the Texas legislature has never authorized public funding of political campaigns. 

There are plenty of Democratic politicians in our state who favor public funding – particularly current officeholders, who would love to be spared the burden of begging for financial support, while simultaneously enjoying the ability to hamstring opponents with spending limits – but this incumbent-protection program is not likely to be enacted any time soon.

What about de facto public funding? Wouldn't that be just as good or better than the legally authorized version – being under the radar, so to speak?

Consider this scenario: An attorney sues a public or quasi-public state agency for millions of settlement dollars. The judge who facilitates the plundering of public assets (issuing a restraining order to hide the details) decides to run for the state legislature, and the attorney enriched with public funds by this same judge donates a nifty portion of that booty to the campaign.

Would that not, in effect, constitute public funding?

This is not a hypothetical situation. It's happening right now, in the current election cycle.

Four years ago, in 2010, Galveston County District Court Judge Susan Criss issued a restraining order to hide the details of a $189 million settlement of Hurricane Ike-related claims with the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA).

Unfortunately for Criss and the attorney benefitting most from the secretive disbursement of public funds, the state attorney general's office affirmed its 2009 determination that TWIA is a governmental body subject to the Public Information Act.

When finally released, the relevant documents showed that the average payout for plaintiffs was $54,000, the average payout for plaintiffs attorneys $700,000.

The biggest beneficiary, his take far exceeding the average, was attorney Steve Mostyn, who just last month contributed $200,000 to Criss's campaign to be elected state representative for District 23.

Whether Texas taxpayers support Criss or not, they indirectly are contributing to her candidacy and Mostyn has himself a nice cozy relationship with a beholding legislator if she wins.

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