TEXAS VIEW: Dan Patrick’s plutocratic Texas

TEXAS VIEW: Dan Patrick’s plutocratic Texas

Photo: econintersect.com

THE POINT — Lt. governor’s citizen advisory boards give cushy seats to campaign donors.

Ahead of his inauguration Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced last week he was creating six citizen advisory boards and filling them with about five dozen Texas business leaders. Patrick spoke of the boards generating new legislative and policy ideas on taxes, transportation, water, energy, the economy and jobs, but a look at each board’s membership suggests what Patrick will get is confirmation of his preset ideas on issues such as privatization, school choice and deregulation.

In prepared inaugural remarks released by his office Tuesday, Patrick described himself as a “servant leader,” saying “a servant leader must listen, to identify and hear the will of the people.”

 Patrick will be hearing from some of his most generous campaign contributors when he listens to his advisory boards. According to Texans for Public Justice, 43 of Patrick’s advisers have given almost $2 million to his campaigns since 2005, and several other board members have close ties to organizations that are major Patrick contributors. Though Patrick talked about appointing a grassroots advisory board sometime soon to complement his business boards, one suspects that all citizen advisers may speak, but not all citizen advisers will be equally heard.

Patrick’s plutocratic appointments are curious because they seem unnecessary. It’s not as though the state’s business leaders can’t find a readily available seat at the legislative table. There’s nothing wrong with a politician seeking advice from business leaders, or with business leaders trying to influence legislation. But Patrick is setting up an official structure within his office that magnifies the influence of people whose pursuit of private political interests already is relatively open.

Tea party Republicans — Patrick’s base — might want to ask themselves whether they’ve been played for fools. Many of Patrick’s appointees have been involved in Texas politics for years and have served on state commissions, councils or boards. They embody the very status quo the tea party seeks to dismantle.

Patrick’s move is no exercise in transparency, either, despite its patina of openness suggesting Patrick is bringing out of the shadows what we all know takes place behind closed doors. The doors on Patrick’s advisory boards will remain locked. Patrick emphasized last week that his committees would meet in private. The public will learn of what advice each board has given Patrick and other senators only if he chooses to acknowledge it.

Patrick talked about “bringing in the best and brightest” to advise him. But Patrick’s best and brightest are narrowly selected. They are mostly wealthy white males. Patrick found fewer than a half-dozen minorities and just as few women to offer him advice.

And some of them look like relics of a good ol’ boy Texas past. Former Gov. Rick Perry ……read more here.


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