I hope taxpayer money is not being used to fund a private group’s lobbying

Today’s Corpus Christi Caller has an interesting article detailing the efforts of the private Coastal Windstorm Task Force to obtain $30,000 from the city of Corpus Christi to fund an actuarial review of their proposal to revise funding for the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.  I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I applaud the efforts to the Task Force to get an actuarial review of their proposal.  I’ve done an analysis already (without special compensation) but there is surely room for company. And although perhaps the analysis should have been done before or at least at the same time as the proposal was released, better late than never. Moreover, If the City of Corpus Christi itself wants to commission an independent actuarial study that examines a variety of reforms of TWIA and that process is subject to regular administrative processes that protect the public, such as Open Records laws, fine.  Getting more actuarial science involved in this debate would be very healthy.

On the other hand, I have great concerns if taxpayer money were to be used to help a private entity lobby Austin.  I don’t know whether it is lawful for city or county government to pay for a private entity to have research done for it. I also do not know whether it is lawful for city or county government, as apparently been done, to pay the travel expenses of a private group so that it may lobby (see note below). Lawful or not, however, it is surely is not a great idea.  There may, for example, be residents of Corpus Christi who do not support the Coastal Task Force plan or the aims of its chamber of commerce.  Why should government taxing authority be used to coerce these people into paying for other people’s research and speech? Moreover, if it is the Chamber of Commerce or the Coastal Task Force that commissions the study, what controls will there be on the communications between the Task Force and its hired actuary?  What if the actuary comes back with an analysis that the Task Force does not like?  Will the Task Force be able to prevent release of that information or to massage it through processes that independent examiners (such as journalists or other Texas citizens) can not see?

I respect the right of a city to pay to have important legislation studied.  But that research needs to be conducted through a transparent process with actuaries insulated from political pressure.  It should not be insulated from public scrutiny or subject to inappropriate steering by paying a private group — one not without its own resources — to do the study for it.


Note:  The Caller article states: “[Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Foster] Edwards said other coastal communities have committed funds to help the task force that has incurred thousands of dollars in costs traveling to meetings throughout South Texas and as far away as Dallas.”