Two of the biggest recipients of public-sector union money in the Texas Legislature are Republicans.
Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio and his close ally, Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, have gotten more cash from public-sector unions than just about any Democrat in the Legislature.
In union donations since the 1998 election cycle, Straus trails only state Sen. John Whitmire, D–Houston, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
Straus’ donation count of $195,000 is all the more remarkable, given he didn’t gain office until 2005, unlike the long-serving Whitmire.
Geren comes in fourth on the list, with $160,423, trailing state Sen. Kirk Watson, D–Austin, but beating out union stalwarts such as Sens. Royce West of Dallas, Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, and Sylvester Turner of Houston.
As one might expect, the rest of the list is filled with Democrats, with the next Republican, Sen. Joan Huffman, not appearing until 15th place.
Straus, of course, came to power with the support of the Democratic caucus and a handful of Republicans. He has maintained favor with Democrats and their public-sector union backers in part by sitting on bills the unions oppose.
In the past legislative session, for example, the leadership sat on a bill that would have ended the state collection of union dues.
Straus and Geren’s favor with public employee unions appears to be unique in American politics. There are no other Republican legislative leaders in conservative states who have found anything like that kind of union support, according to NIMSP’s records.
On a list of public employee union donations to state legislative leaders in the past cycle, the next red state leader to appear is Beth Harwell, the Republican speaker of the Tennessee House, in 37th place, with $12,000.
There are a handful of Republicans above her on the list, but all of them other than Straus are from union strongholds, such as New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and California.
In Texas, unlike most states, the Legislature sets the levels of compensation for retirees and contribution rates for workers for the major municipal unions.
Contact Jon Cassidy at [email protected] or @jpcassidy000.