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What It Means

Advocacy Group – a private organization that advocates for specific policies or for the interests of a certain group. They may seek to influence or educate the public or policy makers about particular issues or issue sets. They include lobbyists, business leagues, non-profit organizations, and other types of entities. Advocacy groups are constitutionally allowed to speak out on causes and issues as well as about candidates and elected officials.

The National Rifle Association is an advocacy group dedicated to protecting the rights of gun owners.

Bundling – the practice of rounding up contributions for a candidate or set of candidates from friends and/or associates by a person or interest group.

The Texas Medical Association regularly holds bundling events where they invite doctors, lobbyists, and other interest groups to attend, meet several candidates, and write their own personal checks. 

Challenger – the person who wants to oust the incumbent, usually the underdog.

The challenger is trying to raise money by exposing the incumbent’s voting record.

Dark Money – a negative term used to describe spending by individuals, businesses, and civic organizations who are not required to disclose the names of their donors; a way to undermine citizens’ constitutional rights of free speech and association.

Politicians and bureaucrats, under the guise of transparency, use the term dark money to silence opposition and condemn those who speak out against their agenda.

General Interest Organization – an organization that works to promote the interests of all citizens and not any one group in particular.

A taxpayer watchdog group is a general interest organization that works to expose waste in government.

Incumbent – the person who already holds the office, a distinct advantage in politics. It’s generally easier for them to raise money and thus fend off challengers.

That incumbent has held his seat in the House for more than four decades.

Independent Expenditures – Also known as “Direct Expenditures” in Texas, these are expenditures to support a candidate in a campaign, but they cannot be coordinated with the candidate they are intended to help.

Home Depot donated $25,000 to the Keep Texas Strong Super-PAC, which took out a full page ad in every major newspaper across Texas encouraging people to vote for Governor Greg Abbott.

Lobbyist – a paid advocate who works to influence government decisions related to a particular industry or issue. Lobbyists are regulated by the state.

The airline industry lobbyist is urging legislators to vote against a competing rail project.

Open Seat – a race for elected office in which there is no incumbent.

With the mayor retiring, the next mayoral election will be an open seat race as there will be no incumbent seeking the office. 

PAC (Political Action Committee) – a group that is formed to give money to the political campaigns of people who are likely to make decisions that would benefit the group’s interests

 The realtors formed a PAC to make donations to candidates who promised to promote laws protecting the real estate industry.

Special Interest – an organization or group of organizations that work to promote the interests of members of the group. Special interests often hire lobbyists to persuade those in government to enact policies or spend money on projects that benefit the group directly.

The Texas Medical Association is a special interest group that promotes the interests of Texas doctors.

SuperPAC (also known as Independent Expenditures Only Committees) These PACs are subject to fewer restrictions and can spend unlimited amounts supporting or opposing candidates, but they cannot directly donate to or coordinate their expenditures with candidates or parties.

When a Super PAC opposing Trump published pictures of his wife Melania, Cruz reminded Trump that he had no connection with or control over any Super PACs.

Tax Funded Lobbying – the practice of using public funds to lobby the government, usually asking for more money, thus requiring higher taxes.

Some states have outlawed tax funded lobbying on the premise that it’s not fair to require taxpayers to pay for lobbyists who are trying, in effect, to raise their taxes!

Term Limit – a restriction on the number of times a person can be re-elected to the same office.

In Texas, there are no term limits on the governor, House representatives, or Senators.

527 Group – A tax-exempt group organized under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code to raise money for political activities. 527 groups can raise unlimited funds from individuals, corporations or labor unions, but they must disclose their contributions and expenditures.

Political parties and Super PACs are two types of 527 groups.