A lifelong resident of San Antonio, Republican State Rep. Lyle Larson was first elected to the Texas House in 2010 and quickly ascended to House Speaker Joe Straus’ inner circle. Hand-picked to serve on the “gatekeeper” House Calendars Committee in 2015, Larson was also tapped as chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources ahead of this year’s legislative session.

Over the course of his career, Larson has earned a career F-rating on the Fiscal Responsibility Index, including his most recent score of 40.
Out of 94 GOP members in the House, only five managed a lower score than Larson’s in 2017.
With Larson’s track record of voting against conservative reforms, questions arise over whose interests he’s representing in Austin: taxpayers in his district, or the Austin Lobby and special interests?
According to campaign finance reports and data compiled by Transparency Texas, Larson has amassed a war chest of $585,610. 
A closer look at Larson’s fundraising gives some insight into who’s supporting the San Antonio lawmaker.
In his post-regular session campaign finance report this July, Larson indicated receiving over $280,000 in contributions. The Bexar County Republican raised $111,650 from 162 donors. Contrast that with the $161,050 he received from 136 political action committees and lobby organizations.
The report also shows that Larson’s donors came largely from outside of his district.
A majority of the 315 donations disclosed, 188, originated outside of San Antonio and other areas in his district, while 126 were either in-district donors or residents of San Antonio. But Larson’s district does not encompass all of San Antonio, meaning the proportion of out-of-district donors is truly even larger.
Some of Larson’s top donors since winning his seat in the Texas House are as follows:
Entities: Texans for Lawsuit Reform ($25,036.77); USAA Employee PAC ($20,107.57); Tx Real Estate PAC ($17,518.42); Tx Deer Assoc. PAC ($15,449.31); Carriage House Partners ($15,000.00)
Individuals:  Gilbert Hine ($16,500.0); Jeff Smithers ($16,500.00); Peter Holt ($12,800.00); Charles Butt ($11,000.00); R.B. Willoughby ($8,000.00)
An interesting but unsurprising nugget is the support from R.B. Willoughby, a real estate broker from Uvalde. Willoughby was an early water permit holder and benefitted significantly from the creation of the Edwards Aquifer in 1993.

One of Larson’s biggest individual donors is Clyde Alexander, a former Democrat member of the House and former chief of staff to outgoing obstructionist Speaker Joe Straus. Clyde cut a $5,000 check to Larson’s campaign in 2014.
Meanwhile, grocery store magnate Charles Butt is well-known in Texas politics as a huge benefactor of the education lobby and the anti-school choice efforts blunting reforms from being implemented in the state. And just outside his top 10 donors since arriving at the House are Joe Straus himself ($6,300) and “wheeler dealer” megadonor Red McCombs ($6,000).
Water has been a policy area of particular interest for Larson, dating back to his days on the San Antonio City Council and his work at Nalco Chemical, a company that does business in the water treatment market. He has also accepted lobbying junkets – including one to Whistler, British Columbia hosted by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Texas – remarking at one point that “It is a valuable process just listening and talking to industry.”
Although the practice of lobbyist “wining and dining” has been the subject of criticism and ethics reform legislation, Larson has publicly claimed that this kind of lobbying is “beneficial and expanding my understanding of issues impacting the state of Texas.”
During this year’s special session, eight of Larson’s 13 filed bills were on the topic of water rights and management. In the 85th regular session, water bills comprised 18 of his 32 bills.
Despite his own record, Larson has been critical of outside influence, at one point complaining that his political opponent was relying on outside funding. What’s clear is that the interests Larson represents are questionable, given the nature of his donor support that includes prominent Democrat and special interest donors, and the veil of secrecy under which he conducts his business.

Salvador Ayala

Sal is the Budget & Policy Analyst for Empower Texans. He has been a committed proponent of American founding principles since 2007, shortly after receiving his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Before joining Empower Texans, he served as legislative director for Rep. Matt Rinaldi in the Texas house and was a delegate to the 2012 RNC. In his leisure, Sal enjoys live music, digital photography, guitar, bicycling, trivia, and documentary films.