One of the most egregious displays of legislative abuse last session occurred when House Speaker Joe Straus’ inner-circle of legislators derided a freshman lawmaker for trying to bring greater transparency to the Texas Legislature.

The legislation would have required that lawmakers disclose the contracts they and their families have with local government entities. The Straus Team went into over-drive to defeat the legislation. (This shows just how much corruption is rampant in the rank and file of those legislators who prop-up Straus’ cronies in the Texas House!)

At the same time, those legislators were trying to force non-profits that shine sunlight on the Legislature to publicly list the names of their donors. Why? So that agencies of state government could be used to bully, harass, and intimidate them.

One of the cheerleaders of the effort to intimidate conservative Texans has been Straus’ chum, Dan Branch who is now running for Texas Attorney General.

This is the same Dan Branch who advocated for an AFL-CIO labor union as a lobbyist in Washington, DC — a fact his campaign has tried desperately to hide.

(No wonder Straus’ team made sure unions were specifically exempted from the donor-harassment effort! A fawning Texas Monthly puff-piece described Branch as a “childhood friend” of liberal speaker Joe Straus.)

Branch’s use of his position to pad his law firm’s wallet dates back more than a decade. It’s been previously revealed that while serving as chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education, Dan Branch’s law firm was simultaneously working on behalf of both the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems, while also lobbying for London-based testing giant Pearson Publishing.

None of this has Dan Branch disclosed willingly. Ironic, given that he recently introduced himself at a tea party candidate forum as “the transparency guy.” Seems he wants everyone to be “transparent” except for himself!

According to a Texas Tribune report this morning, it appears Branch has made it his top priority since early in his legislative career to keep his thriving lobby practice hidden from the public.

Legislation in 2003 would have barred lawmakers from voting on issues their law firm was lobbying for or against. Who worked hardest to defeat it, according to the news reports? That’d be Dan Branch.

At the time he was a registered lobbyist in Washington, DC. Here is what the Tribune reported today:

Dan Branch was a registered federal lobbyist at the same time he was a state representative, and during this overlap Branch was the driving force behind killing a bill that would have disclosed conflicts of interest among legislators and their lobbyist colleagues.

Besides lobbying for an AFL-CIO labor union in Washington, what other businesses and government entities has Dan Branch and his law firm lobbied for over the years in Texas?

We don’t know – cannot know! – because Dan Branch and the Straus Team has kept Texans in the dark about how self-dealing lawmakers profit off the backs of taxpayers.

How can a guy who has lobbied on behalf of labor unions seriously expect anyone to believe he will defend Texas’ small businesses and our state’s right-to-work laws? What other conflicts of interest does Dan Branch and his lobby firm have that will jeopardize the liberty and prosperity of Texas?

What we do know is that Branch’s law firm has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by Texas’ universities, while Branch chaired the higher education committee overseeing those same universities’ governance and funding! So it is no surprise that Dan Branch hasn’t lifted a finger to investigate the allegations of legislative clout-abuse, financial corruption and other malfeasance within our public universities… His law firm was making big bucks on the side.

We also know that Branch led the charge to kill an ethics bill that would have stopped him from voting on these issues… that’s unethical hypocrisy – or worse.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."