New Legislation Calls for Much Needed Campaign Contribution Limits in Texas

AUSTIN — Saturday, Jan. 21, marks the 13th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which opened the floodgates to unlimited political spending by wealthy special interests.

Currently, Texas remains one of the few states without contribution limits for state offices, allowing for historic war chests of preserved campaign resources.

In 2022, more than $200 million was spent in the Texas Governor’s race alone.

TransparencyUSA reports over $488 million spent by Texas state-level candidates in the 2022 election cycle.

House Bill 47, by Texas Rep. Erin Zweiner, a bill strongly supported by Common Cause Texas, would create a limit of $5,000 on individual contributions to statewide or legislative candidates, and $10,000 limit on contributions from political committees.

“The best way to ensure that our elections have integrity is to make sure Texas elected officials are not for sale,” said State Representative Erin Zwiener (HD-45). “It’s time the Texas Legislature enacted common sense campaign contribution limits.”

HB 47 seeks to limit the amount of donations by an individual to $5,000, the amount of donations by a Political Action Committee to $10,000 for statewide electoral campaigns, and the amount of donations received for statewide judicial candidates to $10,000 per electoral cycle.

“I want elected officials to be accountable to their constituents, not their big donors,” Zwiener said. “We need to set a new standard of putting people first in politics, instead of money.”

Katya Ehresman, Voting Rights Program Manager at Common Cause Texas, said Texas has allowed mega-donors to dictate public policy and that campaign contributions on candidate campaigns and for political action committees are long overdue.

“Public policy bends in the direction of wealth and that is especially true here in Texas where the wealthy are allowed to contribute unlimited amounts to state lawmakers,” Ehresman said. “We need strong protections in our democracy, otherwise big money will set the agenda and rig the rules in their favor.”

Despite being one of the states with the most money spent on our elections, there has not willingness from Texas lawmakers to put people over politics and ensure every Texas voter is heard equally. House Bill 47, filed by Rep. Zwiener, is a much needed step to curb the unrestricted influence of money in politics in Texas.

“Texas lawmakers should be beholden to the interest of their constituents, not their largest contributors,” Ehresman said. “On this anniversary of Citizens United, Texas lawmakers are largely silent and unwilling to act to curb the outpaced influence by the wealthy in our elections; Texas voters deserve better.”