Monday, September 26, 2016

From the Texas Tribune: Analysis: "Smitty," a Texas Lobbyist for the Small Fry, Retiring After 31 Years

While John Boehner begins his lobbying career in DC, another ends his in Austin.

As you'll see below, Smith advocated for issues that tend to cut against the grain of Texas' political culture. It's worth noting that the organization he headed was originally set up by Ralph Nader - not a Texan. The Wikipedia on Smith - see the link below - Mentions that he serves on the boards of the following advocacy groups: Clean Water Action, the Texas Wind Power Coalition, Texans for Public Justice, and Campaigns for People. All pro-regulation.

- Click here for the article.

In the early 90s — the heyday of consumer rights legislation and regulation in Texas — Robert Cullick, then a reporter at the Houston Chronicle, gave Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen Texas an unofficial title: Everybody’s Third Paragraph.
Smith, 66, announced his retirement Tuesday from his official post after 31 years, ending a long run of organizing and lobbying on behalf of consumers and citizens on a range of issues like utilities, insurance and political ethics. He was often the voice of the opposition in legislative fights and in the media, which earned him that reporter's epithet.
He’s from that part of the Austin lobby that doesn’t wear fancy suits, doesn’t drive the latest luxury cars and doesn’t spend its time fawning over and feeding elected officials. Smitty has a beard, an omnipresent straw hat and, often, a colorful sheaf of flyers making his points on whatever cause he’s pushing at the time.

Smitty has been a leading voice for government intervention and regulation of big industries and interests in the capital of a state with conservative, business-friendly politicians from both parties who pride themselves on light regulation, low taxes and a Wild West approach to money in politics.
. . . His causes over the years have included food security, decommissioning costs of the nuclear reactors owned by various Texas utilities, insurance regulations, ethics and campaign finance laws. He’s lobbied on environmental issues and product safety.
He counts the ethics reforms of 1991 as one of his big wins. As unregulated as Texas political ethics and campaign finance might seem today, things were a lot looser before reformers used a flurry of scandals and attendant media coverage to force changes. Smith is proud of a medical bill of rights that gave consumers some leverage with their doctors and their health insurers.
Public Citizen was a key player in the creation of the State Office of Administrative Hearings, which took administrative courts out of several regulatory agencies and put them in a central office, farther from the reach of regulated industries and elected officials. Smith now points to the Texas Railroad Commission, which still has its own administrative hearings, as an example of a too-close relationship between regulators, the companies they regulate and the judges supposed to referee their differences.

For more:

- Tribpedia: Tom "Smitty" Smith.
- Wikipedia: Public Citizen Texas.
- Public Citizen: Tom "Smitty" Smith.
- State Office of Administrative Hearings.
- Sunset Review: State Office of Administrative Hearings.
- Government Code: State Office of Administrative Hearings.
- Texas Ethics Commission.

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