‘Outsider’ Don Huffines Puts Out His Hat for Lobby Money

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Don Huffines.
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Senator-elect Don Huffines (R-Dallas)

It’s a trope as old as democratic politics: the fresh-faced outsider wins an election against the old order, and eventually becomes just as bad as the one they replaced. I’ve never been aware of a case in which the whole dang process happens in under 24 hours, however.

The last time we checked in with the Quorum Report’s Scott Braddock’s ongoing ad-hoc series on the finances of tea party candidates, it was when Katrina Pierson, challenging Pete Sessions, was revealed to have been taking unemployment benefits in a period when she was engaged in full-time political activism. This time, we look to Senate District 16’s Don Huffines, who just won his GOP primary race against incumbent Sen. John Carona. Huffines beat the longtime establishment-minded incumbent by just about one percent, having railed for months about the death-grip Austin’s special interests had on his opponent. He wasn’t in it for the money, he said. But Huffines had loaned himself more than $1.5 million to wage what had become an exceptionally heated campaign.

That’s a lot of money to write off, even when you win. So Huffines, according to an email obtained by QR, wrote to a number of Austin lobbyists the day after his great victory against Carona.

Huffines’ campaign told the lobby in a not-so-subtle way that “It’s not too late” to give money to his campaign and they can still “come on board!” the late-train. Above those words appears the image of a train topped with the words “All Welcome!” One lobbyist who received the invitation said it was “just classless.”

Here’s the invitation in question. It’s unclear if the lobbyist quoted found the timing classless, or the quality of the train clip-art:

The solicitation Huffines sent to Austin lobbyists, released by the Quorum Report.
The solicitation Huffines sent to Austin lobbyists, released by the Quorum Report.

Huffines’ spokesman Matt Langston told Quorum Report that the lobby contact was no problem. His principles are intact: “Anyone that donates to our campaign has remarkable clarity on just what kind of senator Don will be.” I suspect they do, although not in the way Langston intends

All lobbying is a form of legalized bribery. The trick is to be subtle about it. Huffines might be new, but I’ve no doubt he’ll smarten up. He has a long career ahead of him.

Christopher Hooks joined the Observer in 2014. Previously, he was a freelance journalist in Austin, where he grew up. His work has appeared in Politico Magazine, Slate, and Texas Monthly, among others. He graduated from The New School in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in history.

  • Steve Bresnen

    “All lobbying is a form of legalized bribery.” That statement is total bullshit. I expect more from a serious journalist.