As the ninth highest-paid lobbyist in the Texas Capitol, receiving up to $4,270,000 in lobby contracts, Brian Yarbrough receives money from a plethora of special interest groups. From education groups to insurance companies, the lobbyist’s clients warrant thorough examination.
In 2018, Yarbrough became a focus of a bitter primary race. State Sen. Kel Seliger (R–Amarillo) was scrutinized by Republican primary opponent Victor Leal in 2018 for not being transparent about his relationship with the lobbyist. The Amarillo Globe-News reported:
Leal, an Amarillo restaurateur, claims that Brian G. Yarbrough, a registered lobbyist in Texas, has had a secret and convoluted relationship with Seliger. His campaign has also said Seliger is under investigation by the Texas Ethics Commission.
Documents provided by Leal’s campaign that are publicly available through the Texas Secretary of State website show Yarbrough organized a limited liability company in 2015 that reported ownership of another company, which owns an airplane Seliger uses.
“It shows he’s up to something with a lobbyist,” Leal said.
Yarbrough’s two biggest clients are the Port of Corpus Christi Authority, a taxpayer-funded entity, and Raise Your Hand Texas, receiving up to $299,999.98 from each group. While lobbying with taxpayer money raises eyebrows among grassroots conservatives, Raise Your Hand Texas also merits a close look.
Funded by H-E-B billionaire magnate and left-wing donor Charles Butt, Raise Your Hand Texas has a history of lobbying against school choice and other educational policies supported by conservative activists.
In February 2020, then-Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey instructed Republican primary candidates not to attend forums sponsored by the group, referring to it as a liberal “MoveOn-type-organization.”
Yarbrough’s third highest-paying client is another education-focused organization, Apollo Education Group. If that name sounds familiar, this may be why: Acquired in 2017 by a consortium of investors, Apollo is the company behind the University of Phoenix.
The University of Phoenix, one of the largest for-profit colleges in the nation, has frequently been criticized for faulty recruitment practices and deceptive advertising. In 2019, the company reached a $191 million settlement with the FTC after accusations of misleading viewers through its marketing campaign.
Yarbrough and other lobbyists greatly influence decisions in the Texas Capitol. This begs the question: Who influences them? For more information on Texas lobbyists, visit Transparency USA.
This article is part of a series of profiles on Texas’ highest-paid lobbyists by Texas Scorecard.