07/12/17

Texans for Lawsuit Reform: Moderate Republican

Tribe: Moderate Republican

Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) is in the business of electing politicians who will vote “correctly” on lawsuit & tort reform issues, while not rocking the boat in the Capitol. They’ve become one of the most powerful and well-known PACs in the state using this model, and show no signs of changing their game plan.

TLR was more willing to challenge incumbent legislators at their inception in the early 2000s, but now is more likely to support incumbents who hold the keys to power. Their list of top financial recipients is split between some of the most powerful, established politicians in the House and some members who lean conservative yet don’t regularly rebel against leadership.

A quick look at the top ten recipients of TLR dollars in the Texas House shows a clear bent toward supporting the Moderate Republican tribe.

Top Ten Texas House Recipients – 2016 Cycle
Joe Straus $55,000
Paul Workman $50,000
Cindy Burkett $47,500
John Frullo $47,500
Wayne Faircloth $45,000
Rodney Anderson $40,000
Charlie Geren $35,000
Todd Hunter $27,500
Dennis Bonnen $25,000
Jodie Laubenberg $25,000
Total $397,500

***Shown are the top ten supported  candidates who won the office they sought, as they have votes to examine from the 85th Legislative Session.

 

Pro-TLR Spin:

When looking at the candidates TLR supports, and especially those they support most heavily, the pattern is clear: they prefer politicians who will stand strong on their issues and not cause broader systemic “problems” in the House. As a business-focused group their ideal legislator is someone willing to make deals to get things done. That’s how they market themselves to their donors, as the interest group that can stop trial lawyers, frivolous lawsuits, and protect the Texas Miracle. Some voters and donors respond positively to this, and view finding common ground as the highest virtue.

 

Anti-TLR Spin:

TLR’s reputation around the Capitol is one of a silent assassin, not always showing their strength but rather waiting in the wings with a massive war chest of money to take out strategic targets when necessary. Unfortunately, their recent record of taking out Republicans who cross them isn’t too good. Over the last several sessions TLR has been snubbed on virtually all meaningful legislation they’ve pushed, and only recently achieved victory on so-called frivolous hail storm litigation despite having invested heavily in those in power.

TLR’s response to being repeatedly blackballed by House Leadership? Of the top ten recipients of TLR money in the House, not a single one was a challenger to a sitting state representative.

 

The Bottom Line:

A PAC’s political tribe mirrors that of the legislators they support most heavily. TLR’s largest investments are to Moderate Republican legislators – those who typically vote with House Leadership unless it could significantly hurt them in a primary election.

This doesn’t mean everyone who receives money from them is unwilling to take a stand, just like it doesn’t mean everyone who receives money from them is moderate. Some of the most well-known Liberal Republicans in the House received sizable donations from TLR. What it does mean is that TLR, ultimately, is in the business of looking out for itself and working to get what they want, all without rocking the boat.

If voters see a large infusion of cash to their local politician from TLR, they can likely assume that person is either part of the established leadership in Austin, or someone who follows House Leadership blindly until smacked squarely in the face with a vote or bill that could hurt them at home come reelection.

 

Up Next:

Empower Texans PAC: Conservative Republican Tribe

 

An Easy Guide to the Big Money PACs in Texas Politics – In this Series:

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