As we’ve often seen in Washington, D.C., the business of serving oneself over constituents is a bipartisan vocation. Straus-lieutenant Jim Keffer, Republican state representative from Eastland, has proved that cronyism is a popular bipartisan vocation in Austin, too.

Keffer, a 17-year incumbent Republican state representative out of Eastland, TX, runs EBAA Iron Sales. His company sells what have been called “the Cadillac of pipe fittings.” He markets them primarily to governments and contractors installing water and wastewater pipes.

But Cadillacs aren’t sold for cheap and Keffer has found that his company can’t compete on a level playing field with foreign made fittings. So naturally he teamed up with a liberal Democrat this session to change the rules to give his company a special advantage at taxpayers’ expense.

In an open letter dated March 27, 2009, directed at those who make purchasing decisions, Keffer praised the 2009 Obama “Stimulus Bill” and its provisions requiring taxpayers to purchase all of their iron and steel from domestic manufacturers. Keffer went on to threaten purchasing agents with lawsuits, saying:

“The choice is clear. Either use domestic made products … or risk involving yourself and your project in what will likely be a protracted legal battle….”

Keffer thought the Obama Stimulus Bill was such a great idea that he used his position as a powerful House Committee Chairman to bring Obama’s domestic iron mandate to Texas.

This session, Keffer teamed up with Yvonne Davis, a Dallas Democrat who leads the House Democratic Caucus, in authoring a bill that would require taxpayers to buy his iron. Under the bill, Keffer would have been able to inflate the cost of his “Cadillac pipe fittings” so high that it could increase the cost of important state water projects by up to 15 percent and Texas taxpayers would still have to buy from him.

Of course, Keffer and his fellow Team Straus comrades made a heavy push for Prop 6—which makes it easier for local governments to take on more debt to finance the very same water projects that Keffer plans to sell pipe flanges to.

A fiscal note prepared for the bill found that Keffer’s bill would increase costs so much that its impact could not even be determined. Cities who were polled on the matter, however, said that Keffer’s bill would increase construction costs on water infrastructure projects by a full 15 percent.

Unfortunately this self-dealing cronyism is seen far too often in the halls of our Capitol. But elections are the time where taxpayers can do something about it, and fortunately for HD 60, Mr. Keffer has a conservative challenger in the Republican primary. Early voting starts next Tuesday, February 18 and continues through Friday February 28. Election day is Tuesday March 4.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.


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