Lobbyists Using Your Money to Lobby?
Posted by Tony Listi on March 3, 2008
For Immediate Release: February 28, 2008
Contact: Peggy Venable – 512.476.5905
Texas Association of Counties Loses Lawsuit to Taxpayers
Today, Williamson County served an order against the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) commanding them to refrain from lobbying using dues paid by counties. TAC has also been ordered by the court to pay attorney fees for the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit filed by Williamson County taxpayers in 2005 was decided in favor of the taxpayers in October 2007, when the judge found that TAC has been in violation of the law using association dues paid by Texas counties in their advocacy and lobby work.
“TAC realized they were breaking the law and after we filed the lawsuit, the organization claimed they were no longer collecting dues,” said plaintiff Peggy Venable. “However, they still purport to represent counties. We don’t know what constitutes a TAC member county if they don’t pay dues.”
“This legal victory is a vindication of our lawsuit which TAC called frivolous,” said Venable. “Texas counties and TAC had been in flagrant violation of the law for years.”
Venable, Texas director of the taxpayer group Americans for Prosperity filed the lawsuit along with fellow taxpayers Janice Brauner and Judy Morris. The taxpayers filed the suit stating that state law prohibited taxpayers from funding a county association that lobbies.
“The Texas Association of Counties has consistently lobbied against taxpayer protections and legislation which most taxpayers support,” said Venable. “It took a lawsuit to get their attention.”
Venable said taxpayers cannot spend much time celebrating this victory.
“TAC has made clear that they are considering segregating dues from other fees so they can continue lobbying, or not collect dues from counties while continuing to fees. This type of shell game may be acceptable to the court, but it is not acceptable to taxpayers,” said Venable.
“As TAC may be able to segregate their dues, they continue to collect large fees from counties, and other local government entities and organizations are openly using tax dollars to hire lobbyists,” said Venable. While not collecting dues, TAC collected well over $500,000 in fees from Williamson County during the time of the lawsuit.
Just this month the Austin City Council voted to spend a total of $987,000 to hire 12 lobbyists and lobbying firms, and the City of Denton is also approving $81,000 to hire a lobby firm to prepare them for the 2009 legislative session.
“In their meeting, the City of Denton cited three issues they opposed: property appraisal caps, city spending limits, and a sales tax holiday for textbooks. Those are things most taxpayers want,” said Venable.
“We expect our elected officials to communicate with one another, not to hire lobbyists to serve as intermediaries,” said Venable. “We may have won a victory but we have a lot of work ahead of us to end our tax dollars going to pay lobbyists to lobby against taxpayer interests. “
To view the Writ of Injunction issued today, click here: http://americansforprosperity.org/includes/filemanager/files/tx/venable_writ_of_injunction.pdf
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Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a nationwide organization of citizen leaders committed to advancing every individual’s right to economic freedom and opportunity. AFP believes reducing the size and scope of government is the best safeguard to ensuring individual productivity and prosperity for all Americans. AFP educates and engages citizens in support of restraining state and federal government growth and returning government to its constitutional