Image: This amazing Associated Press photograph is from the 2009 Legislative Session as then-State Representative Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands), left, discussed some proposed legislation with a colleague on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives.
Conroe, July 7 – The citizens of Montgomery County received a two-week reprieve from the Commissioners Court hiring of a taxpayer-funded lobbyist, former State Representative Rob Eissler of The Woodlands, to lobby for the Montgomery County government during the 86th Legislative Session in Austin in 2019. The hiring of Eissler has become extremely controversial, as citizens and insiders within the County government object to the hiring of any taxpayer-funded lobbyist as well as specifically the hiring of the controversial Eissler whom grassroots conservative Steve Toth defeated for re-election to the Texas House in the 2012 Republican Primary Election.
At the time when Toth defeated Eissler for re-election, Eissler was the powerful Chairman of the House Education Committee which oversaw the Texas education system. Eissler was a popular member of the Texas Legislature among Republicans although his voting record was not particularly conservative.
The affable Eissler serves as President of the Magnolia Parkway Improvement District for which he receives a full-time salary. He is also a lobbyist for the Woodlands Township, Texas A&M University, and at least one school district. In 2008, the Texas Ethics Commission found that Eissler had used campaign funds to purchase real property for himself and his wife, assessed him a $10,600 civil penalty, and required Eissler to pay his campaign back funds in the amount of $18,106.53.
The primary issue with respect to the proposal of Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack to hire Eissler, however, is not Eissler himself. Eissler is well known to the political community in Montgomery County. Many conservatives like Eissler.
The problem with Doyal’s and Noack’s plan to hire Eissler and pay him $4,000 per month for his lobbying services is that it directly runs afoul of the Republican Party Platform and raises substantial ethical questions as well.
Republican Party Platform
A longstanding Plank of the Republican Party Platform provides, “We urge that the Texas Legislature enact legislation that prohibits tax-funded contract lobbying.” The 2018 Republican State Convention re-approved that Plank in the Republican Party of Texas Platform.
The 8,500 Convention Delegates who converged on San Antonio for the State Republican Convention three weeks ago also approved five (5) Legislative Priorities for the 86th Legislative Session. One of those top five Republican priorities specifically calls for an “End [to] Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying.” The Republican Party clarified that Republicans opposed “all forms of taxpayer-funded lobbying.”
Any member of the Commissioners Court who supported spending tax dollars to hire an lobbyist would directly violate the Republican Party Platform as well as one of the top Legislative Priorities Republican activists have backed.
Montgomery County and ethics
Clearly, there are a number of problems with the hiring by the Montgomery County government of any lobbyist. The issue is not Eissler.
Rather, these are the problems with the County government hiring a paid-lobbyist:
- It’s unclear how the County Commissioners Court would ensure that the lobbyist only worked on pro-citizen legislation. For example, many counties and municipalities lobbied against statewide property tax reform during the 85th Legislative Session in 2017. Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley lobbied against property tax reform on behalf of the anti-citizen, pro-spending Texas Association of Counties.
- The proposal violates the Republican Party Platform.
- The proposal violates the Republican Party Legislative Priorities.
- The proposal wastes $48,000 per year of hard-earned tax dollars which the County government forces citizen to pay. None of those funds should directly or indirectly support lobbying against taxpayer interests.
- A representative governmental entity, such as the County Commissioner Court, should not hire lobbyists at all. Instead, the Court should utilize the services of free citizen lobbyists who could communicate with their elected representatives and other members of the Legislature for free.