Underscoring the need for reform this session, the Senate’s most senior member has been hired as a lobbyist on behalf of a government board. Worse yet, not only is said advocacy paid for with tax dollars, but it represents an obvious conflict of interest.
And it’s all perfectly legal.
After advising the Dallas Police and Fire Pension board earlier in November to seek professional advocacy for state legislation designed to overhaul Dallas’ pension system, State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) has been hired by the board to lobby on their behalf.
Let that sink in. As a senator, Whitmire is being paid by the government board to advocate for legislation which he will vote on in his official capacity. And Texas state law allows for it.
It’s a clear conflict of interest made more offensive by the fact that he’s being paid by tax dollars.
Legislators already enjoy a plethora of benefits – financial and otherwise – as a result of their position. Often, many of them become lobbyists once they are out of office, leveraging the access they enjoyed while they were elected, which is a separate problem in and of itself.
But while elected? And with tax-dollars, no less…
Conservatives have known for some time that allowing the use of tax dollars for lobbying is problematic. As is allowing current legislators to be employed as lobbyists for legislation they can directly influence as a result of their position.
Now, both of those things are occurring with the most senior member of the Senate. If Texans are to believe that their elected officials are objective servants of the people, legislators should repudiate this practice this session and move towards meaningful reform.