This past legislative session, billionaire Elon Musk's push for a new law allowing electric-car maker Tesla Motors to bypass car dealers and sell directly to consumers crashed and burned.
Which wasn't a surprise. The state's car dealers have a long, proud history of plying legislators with campaign cash and gifts. So when Texas Auto Dealers Association President Bill Wolters complained that the Tesla bill would open the door for huge corporate car-makers to "compete with our family-owned businesses," lawmakers listened.
Still, it's instructive to take a detailed look at the battle, which nonprofit watchdog Texans for Public Justice provides this morning.
Musk spread a bit of money around, giving $7,500 in campaign contributions and spending somewhere between $255,000 and $565,000 on lobbyists.
In return, TPJ writes, "[l]awmakers happily gave Musk what he wanted -- so long as he didn't challenge powerful, entrenched interests." Sweeping bills supporting SpaceX, Musk's private rocket-launching venture, sailed through while the more modest Tesla-friendly measure stalled.
Musk's expenditures were dwarfed by dealership interests, which poured more than $2.5 million into the 2012 election and spent $750,000 on lobbying. Here's TPJ's list of top contributors:
Not that Dallas needed a reminder of entrenched transportation interests using government officials to crush an innovative, forward-looking startup.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.