Texas Politics

Big donors named to state panel


Billionaire political donors and other special interest heavyweights are among “citizen advisory” members named by incoming Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to help Texas lawmakers write bills over the next five months.

Patrick said Thursday that more than 50 businessmen will advise the Senate on issues including economic development and transportation.

They include oilman Tim Dunn, who last year donated $50,000 to Patrick and more than $2 million to the ultraconservative activist group Empower Texans. Other members run businesses that spend millions lobbying lawmakers.

Watchdog groups condemned the panel as a favor to special interests.

Patrick said getting ongoing feedback from the private sector on policy makes sense. He said the panel includes members who didn’t support his campaign.

He called it an “unprecedented effort” to involve the private sector in public policy.

“Very often the private sector is asked for help by a candidate, but after they get elected, there’s not much follow-up,” Patrick said. “This is for them to provide us with insight and new ideas that either we haven’t thought of — or when we have an idea, a piece of legislation, we’ll say, ‘How will this work?’”

Members of the Lieutenant Governor’s Advisory Boards of Private Citizens include Dunn, energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens, San Antonio real estate developer Gene Powell and Brint Ryan, owner of a Dallas tax firm.

Patrick said he hoped the members can use their experiences to educate lawmakers in both chambers about the consequences of proposed legislation. Issues like immigration, healthcare and education would be considered by the committees, he said, and those topics might also be added as separate panels in the future. Patrick said meetings will not be open to the public.

Staff writer John Gravois contributed to this report, which includes material from The Texas Tribune and The Associated Press.

Local ties

Two of the members of the incoming lieutenant governor’s committee are from Fort Worth.

Ardon Moore — president of Lee M. Bass Inc. in Fort Worth and chairman of the 2015 Texas Inaugural Committee — will serve on the Economic Forecast Committee.

And Bob Albritton, an investor and businessman who also was appointed to serve as a governor’s appointee to the inaugural committee, will serve on the Transportation Committee.

A new report by Texans for Public Justice shows that many members of Patrick’s newly appointed committee contributed $2 million to his campaigns since 2005. That amount included a $25,000 donation by Moore.

— Anna M. Tinsley