One of the biggest objections people have to the billionaire donors controlling elections is how they also control access. And now they're not even quiet about it, not at all.
Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens has never been shy about buttonholing elected officials, but it's seldom been easier since Texas' new lieutenant governor set up regular conference calls for select business leaders and donors to advise him on issues before the Legislature.
In Texas, where the wall between big money and government is like the low cattle fencing that pens the state's ranchland, new Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's new invitation-only calls have provided an especially direct connection between the state's business elite and the Legislature's agenda.
"Why wouldn't I want to learn from and communicate with the job creators? Why would we want to pass legislation that might impact our economy in a negative way?" said Patrick, who schedules bills for action, explaining the calls.
Why wouldn't he, indeed? After all, they paid for him to sit there in that statehouse and create a special telephone line where they can share their biggest concerns. To hell with ALEC, these guys can write the legislation without any group therapy ahead of time.
Job creators. Feh.
Those invited to the conference calls include Tilman Fertitta, a Houston restaurant magnate whose chains include Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., energy pipeline builder Kelcy Warren and railroad executive Bob Albritton. About 70 percent donated to Patrick's campaigns for Senate and lieutenant governor, amounting to about $2 million in contributions, and many also gave to other top Republicans, such as Gov. Greg Abbott.
Panel members and Patrick say they mostly discuss big-picture issues, like transportation or energy. The invitees include those with backgrounds in various areas. Patrick said he mostly sits back and listens. But the sessions are having an effect.
A bill giving state and local governments financial incentives to switch their fleets to natural gas - an idea pitched by Pickens - has passed Patrick's Senate. Forty-nine members of Patrick's conference call group also signed a letter supporting more highway funding, which Patrick said sends lawmakers a powerful message before voting.
Patrick said that if he has any regret, it's that the calls didn't start sooner so they could have shaped more bills for this session.
Well damn, boy! Get on it. God forbid you'd work for the citizens of that great state.
Will someone explain to me why the feds would want to take over Texas again? It seems like the billionaires have already scored that coup.