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Guidry News Forum
Let's End Pay-to-Play at City Hall
by Bill King
Monday, January 14, 2019

I held a press conference this morning to announce that there will be a petition drive this spring to invoke the City Charter's initiative provision to enact an ordinance that would severely limit campaign contributions from a number of groups, mostly those that do business with the City.

Campaign contributions from the City's vendors and contractors have increasingly come to dominate fundraising by candidates for the City's elected offices.  Research we have been doing over the last year indicates that about 70-75% of the contributions come from those who do business with the City or are regulated by it.  And we are talking about many millions of dollars.  Far beyond the ability of ordinary citizens to contribute.

This pay-to-play creates an inherent conflict-of-interest that we need to eliminate from our City government.  I am not suggesting by initiating this petition drive that every candidate who has ever accepted a campaign contribution from someone doing business with the City is corrupt.  Nor am I suggesting that every vendor or contractor who has given a contribution is corrupt - because candidly I have been on both sides of that equation at various points in my life.  I know what it is like to get that call from an elected official asking to come to his or her birthday party and bring a contribution.  And I can tell you that many times it felt like legalized extortion.   I know that a lot of other people who do business with the City feel the same way.

The new ordinance will provide that any person who contributes more than $250 will be disqualified for a period of two-year period from: 

  1.  entering into a contract with the City,
  2. registering as a City lobbyist;
  3. or being appointed to any of city boards or commissions.

It will also ban candidates for City office from accepting campaign contributions from sexually oriented businesses. With Houston being one of the national hubs for human trafficking, I think it is important that we do not anything that even appears to condone sexual exploitation.

These types of restrictions are commonplace in many other jurisdictions, and polling we did in 2015 indicated that nearly 90% of Houstonians agree that these kinds of contributions should be prohibited or severely limited.

You can review a copy of the proposed ordinance [here].

But this will only happen by direct action of Houston voters through the initiative provision.  Under that provision, once about 40,000 Houstonians sign a petition supporting the adoption of a new ordinance, City Council has about 30 days to either adopt the ordinance or to put the ordinance on the ballot at the next regularly scheduled election date, which will be November 5 this year.

The requirements of the initiative provision are onerous.  Only City registered voters can sign the petition and only City registered voters can collect signatures from other voters.  The signatures must be collected within a 30-day window.  We currently plan to conduct the drive in May.

This is going to require a tremendous grassroots effort.  So, I am asking today for those Houstonians who agree we should undertake this reform to volunteer to help us collect the 40,000 signatures needed for an election. 

Again, in order to be able to collect signatures, you must be a registered voter in the City of Houston, and you will need to attend an on-line training session about how to legally collect signatures.  If you are willing to do so, please reply to this email or sign up at End Pay-to-Play to be a petition gatherer at and we will be in touch about how you can help in this effort.

I also call on every candidate in the 2019 election cycle to endorse this reform and to help us gather petitions.  And I hope that as you are considering candidates for the various City offices in November election, you will ask each of them if they support campaign finance reform and if not, why not.


This ordinance will change the way business is done at City Hall for generations.  Let's get this done!

If someone forwarded you this email and you would like to be on my distribution list, send your email address to  Previous posts can be found at Bill King Blog.

Remembering Jim Guidry

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