Afraid to put their liberal records before conservative voters in the Republican primary, several prominent lawmakers “retired” from office following last session. But some of them have come back to the Capitol in order to work for the lobby.
State Rep. John Otto (R–Dayton) announced that he would not run for re-election in July of 2015 and has now become a lobbyist.
“I want to thank the voters of House District 18 for their support and encouragement over the years. This was not an easy decision, but I never intended for this experience to be a lifelong endeavor. After accomplishing much of what I set out to do when first elected, the time is right for me to step aside,” Otto said in a press conference. “I will always be grateful and humbled by my time in the Texas House.”
Though Otto would no longer be running for office himself, he had no intention of “stepping aside.”
Like other lawmakers before him, Otto is now a lobbyist who pays for his Austin condo using campaign funds. He has also used his campaign account to bankroll political campaigns for former colleagues and potential lawmakers, spending more than $137,000.
But Otto’s spending spree doesn’t end at political contributions. He started the “wining and dining” even before he registered as a lobbyist and expensed lavish meals with soon-to-be lawmakers to discuss the upcoming legislative session.
In fact, Otto wrote so many checks on his way out the door that he had to buy more – listing an expense of $63.80 in October for “printing new checks for campaign account.”
A former chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee and a staunch ally of the Democratic coalition that dominates the House, Otto is now registered to lobby for three clients: Texas Association of Realtors, Textile Rental Services of America, and Jesse Ancira Strategies.
While the first two are relatively innocuous, the last client raises eyebrows.
Jesse Ancira is the former chief of staff to House Speaker Joe Straus (R–San Antonio). A clear example of the need for ethics reform himself, Ancira is both an elected official and a lobbyist.
A registered Democrat and liberal mayor of the nearby city of Taylor, Ancira was a prominent lobbyist in the Capitol before being tapped to serve as Straus’ general counsel and then chief of staff.
But after leaving Straus’ office in 2015, Ancira has set up shop as a lobbyist once again with an extensive client list including the City of Houston, the police lobby, and the anti-school choice Raise Your Hand Texas.
Otto’s addiction to Austin and ability to so quickly begin trading influence and favors in Austin is further example of the dire need for major ethics reform in Texas.