Last week we told you about Byron Cook, whom we recently dubbed “Representative Zero” after he turned in a semiannual campaign finance report loaded with lobby dollars but with nary a penny of in-district support. Well, as we’ve continued to review campaign finance reports, we’ve discovered another entrenched Straus committee chair who has committed the very same fundraising sin.
Like the residents of District 8, the citizens in Liberty, San Jacinto, and Walker counties (House District 18) don’t have a voice in Austin either. Their representative has demonstrated that he is working for someone else. Considering our founders fought a war over taxation without representation, it may be high time for a revolution in District 18.
According to John Otto’s report filed with the Texas Ethics Commission on January 15, he raised $119,000 in the latter half of 2013. With that infusion he now has a cool $530,000 in campaign cash at his disposal. But every single penny he raised in 2013 was raised from lobbyists or political action committees. Otto raised absolutely nothing from his home counties, or from any regular citizen, for that matter.
What does Otto do with all of that cash? He actually spends very little of it on campaigns. Instead he maintains an apartment in Austin year around, despite the fact that the legislature ceased meeting months ago. But that’s not all. Like George Jefferson, Otto appears to be moving on up. An expenditure in December noted that he paid movers to move from his Austin apartment to an Austin condominium. We’ll let you know the address of his new digs when his 30-day report comes in in February.
Housing isn’t the only perk John Otto enjoys as a creature of Austin. He is also able to finance his vacations at the lobby’s expense.
John Otto’s campaign finance report notes that he spent campaign funds (and accepted in-kind airfare from United Airlines) to go on vacations with his wife in September and December of 2013. In September, Otto and his wife traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for seven days. In early December they embarked again on a six day vacation to Canada, all at the expense of Austin lobbyists. These jaunts were allegedly to attend “energy council conferences” but one suspects Mrs. Otto didn’t tag along just so the pair could sit and listen to lectures all day.
For conservatives who think of themselves as representatives of their constituents, the idea of not raising a single penny in-district is a foreign concept. But campaign finance reports have demonstrated that two of Joe Straus’s most senior committee chairmen are fully bought and paid for by special interest PACs and lobbyists.
Maybe that is why John Otto, the vice chairman of the tax-raising Ways and Means Committee and a powerful Appropriations subcommittee chairman was instrumental in increasing session-to-session spending during the 83rd Texas Legislature by 26.9 percent. After all, those lobbyists that are paying for his year-round condo in Austin and for vacations with his wife have to get some return on their investment.