Democrats Urge Texas Governor to End Contracts with Lobbyists

In 2003, Texas Governor Rick Perry began paying two Washington D.C. based firms, the Federalist Group and Cassidy & Associates, to lobby on behalf of the state. But the contracts have come under fire because of the firms' close ties to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Jill Morrison has more from Capitol Hill.

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Texas Democrats, led by Houston Congressman Gene Green, sent a letter to Governor Perry urging him to cancel the contracts with the two firms. Green says the lobbyists worked to defeat Democrats in Texas. And he says their close ties to Republicans, will limit their influence on a Democratically-controlled Congress.

"They never contacted Democrats; their job was only to talk to Republicans. And then for the 100,000's of the thousands of dollars they were paid, they look like they turned it over and turned it back into campaign contributions for Republican challengers and incumbents."

Green says that the contracts are a waste of state tax dollars and that the money could be better spent elsewhere. He says Texas representatives don't need any help from Washington lobbyists.

"All 32 members of the House and our two senators' job is to represent Texas. We didn't need to have a Washington law firm come and tell us what is good for Texas - that's our job."

The Texas government has paid roughly $1.2 million dollars to the two firms. Dr. Richard Murray, a political analyst at the University of Houston, says this is the first time Texas has paid lobbyists at this scale. He argues the contracts were part of a larger plan to help Republicans.

"I think it's just an offshoot of the much-larger K Street Project that Tom DeLay shepherded in the late '90s and early 21st century, to try and get the Washington lobby corps to be oriented toward the Republican majority and to diminish the opportunities for Democratic or bipartisan lobbyists on Capitol Hill."

Murray also doubts the ability of the lobbyists to influence the new Congress.

"The Democratic chairs of House and Senate committees aren't going to be looking for former associates of Tom DeLay to whisper nice things in their ear about projects for Texas."

Under pressure from Democrats, Governor Perry recently ordered the Office of State-Federal Relations to review the contracts. But Congressman Green says that decision was long overdue.

"I think it's late to review it, but I'm glad they're doing it now because I think there are other things the state could use those dollars for other than paying off Washington lobbyists."

The office has asked the lobbyists to prove they can work with the new Congress. A spokesman for Cassidy & Associates issued a statement pledging bipartisanship, but declined to answer follow-up questions. Dr. Murray believes it will be difficult for them to work with Democrats, but says it is unlikely the contracts will be cancelled. In 2003, the same office approved the contracts at Governor Perry's request. For Houston Public Radio, I'm Jill Morrison on Capitol Hill.

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