:9G4iliiii i igkill r h in 1111!!!!!1111:111111111111111111111111W111111111111111111111iiititivilimitia 1 “11 -.111 By Helen Jardine Most voters may have been apathetic about Texas politics this year, but one type of political participant played the game more enthusiastically than ever beforethe business executives of major corporations. Like everyone else, these citizens have only one vote apiece; but unlike everyone else, they have lots of loose dollars to stuff into campaignsa fact that gives their participation a little special oomph in the democratic process. Business men and women have always been the chief source of political money, but since there are laws against making contributions directly out of corporate funds, they have had to give as individuals \(or set up secret and illegal slush funds such as impossible to make even an approximate accounting of total business giving in campaigns. This time around, however, corporations became a bit more openly involved in campaign finance by forming their own political action committees, which are legal entities that receive money from managerial-level employees of a firm and then dole it out in the corporate name to favored candidates. By tracking the identities and contributions of these PACs, it would be possible to get at least a rough idea of how much oomph big business delivers in politics. With the help of a dozen volunteers, the Observer has made the effort this year to assess the level of giving by these business PACs in Texas. It is important to admit at the outset that we did not succeed. We were able to trace a staggering $4 million that corporate committees put into the 1978 elections, which makes them far and away the deepest well in Texas politics this year.* But, for several reasons, this figure does not begin to measure the actual amount of corporate-based money that local and state politicians hauled away: It still doesn’t account for the individual donations of corporate chieftains, a sum that would surpass the $4 million we found. All but a few thousand dollars of our total went to stateoffice candidatescorporate PACs giving to congressional and senatorial candidates report separately in Washington, and we have not tackled that end of it, which would add at least a couple of million more spent in Texas. Our count runs only to October 28, when the last filing before the election was due, so it misses the post-election report rate PAC contributions are expected to be reported. The secretary of state’s office, which receives the periodic PAC filings required by law, is slow to review the reports to assure compliance with the laws, and the reports contain many errors, missing information, and general sloppiness, which is to say we have no confidence that the firms are revealing the full extent of their giving. * Corporate executives are fond of saying that it was necessary for them to form PACs in order to counter the big money that organized labor is putting into campaigns. This year, Texas unions will have put less than $200,000 into all state and local races combined-5 percent of the $4 million attributable to corporate PACs. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7
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