If you’ve bet on the wrong horse in an election, there are no worries in Texas. You can always catch the “late train” by making a late election or post-election contribution to the winning candidate. Efforts have been made recently to ban “late train” contributions. Lobbyists and influence-peddlers who catch the late train often note that it’s a lot more expensive than the regular train.
The “late train” term appears to have been created during Mark White’s run for governor in 1982.
n. post-election support for a candidate, especially when switching from a losing candidate to a winning one.
Editorial Note: Common in constructions like “take/get on/board/catch the late train.”
1983 [Thomas B. Edsall] Washington Post (Apr. 25) “Economic Ills Strain Alliance Of Oilmen, GOP” p. A1: Within a month after Clements lost, Mark White, the victor, held a series of “get on board the late train” fund-raisers that produced $3 million from many of the original Clements backers.
1986 Wayne Slater, George Kuempel Dallas Morning News (Texas) (Mar. 23) “Big Donations Fuel White’s Campaign Series: The Money Behind The Candidates” p. 1A: In order to communicate, it helps to be on the right side, said Bob Cozean, a Houston-based real estate developer who, with partner Pat Gilbert, has contributed $15,000 to White’s re-election campaign. “As opposed to taking a late train, which many of us did last time,” he said, “this time, we were there at the beginning.”
1998 Houston Chronicle (Texas) (Jan. 9) “Most action in the primary is on Republican side of the ballot”: All aboard! Houston Mayor Lee Brown’s late train chugs out on Feb. 3 at the Westin Galleria Hotel. It’s a fund-raiser for Brown’s campaign. Anyone who didn’t contribute the maximum amount to Brown’s coffers can curry political favor—or just show support and admiration—by tossing in some bucks now. That includes people who backed Rob Mosbacher and now don’t want to lose their clout totally because of their stake in City Hall policies, politics or contracts. In the campaign business, it’s called a “late train” fund-raiser.
2002 Michael King, Jordan Smith Austin Chronicle (Texas) (Dec. 13) “Harbingers of the Season”: On the Lege scene, most of the serious December action is confined to “late-train” fundraisers recalling the opening scenes of The Godfather—much public celebration while the lobbyists, checks in hand, line up in the back rooms.
NOVEMBER 10, 2002
Sunday 7:00:10 a.m. CST
Choo! Choo! : All Aboard the GOP Victory Express
For lobbyists and special interests groups that did not support Republican candidates on November 5th, the road to redemption begins by buying an expensive ticket on the GOP Victory Express. The ticket is known as a “late train” campaign contribution. Late train contributions are not illegal. They are designed to give lobbyists and special interest groups the opportunity to build (or rebuild) relationships with lawmakers and statewide officials who will influence their clients’ or organizational interests during the 78th Texas Legislature.
Texas Political Resource Page
January 15, 2006; 11:51 a.m.
Goodbye to Walter Mischer, Ben Love and Richard J.V. Johnson
WALTER M. MISCHER 83, passed away December 18, 2005. Appropriately born on July 4, 1922 in Karnes City, Texas. He distinguished himself in construction, homebuilding, real estate development, energy, banking, ranching and civic affairs. Mischer Investments was his principal business operation, which continues today as a major real estate development company. Mr. Mischer was the founder and chairman of Allied Bancshares through its merger with Wells Fargo Bank.”
Mischer did occasionally pick the wrong house in a political race. So, he developed the “catch the late train” ploy by helping the winning candidate pay off his campaign debts if he had not been with that candidate in the first place.
FEBRUARY 20, 2006
That game can be expensive. One Washington lobbyist who asked not to be identified says he gave money to the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for a House seat. After the election, the Republican winner called to demand a check—bigger than the original gift. Why? “The late train is a hell of a lot more expensive than the early train,” the lobbyist says he was told.
Kiss My Big Blue Butt (December 3, 2006)
“They call it the late train,” said Andrew Wheat, research director of Texans for Public Justice, an Austin-based group that backs campaign finance reform.
Embracing the train motif, at least one politician made clear he wasn’t the kind to hold a grudge.
‘‘Choo-choo ... It’s not too late!” incoming Rep. John Zerwas, a Republican from the Houston area, wrote in his invitations to his Thursday night reception at the Headliners Club. Zerwas even included a drawing of a train, lest people miss the point. He did not return calls for comment.
League of Women Voters of Texas (May 25, 2007)
SB 64 (Zaffirini) SUPPORT has been enrolled after being passed by both houses with the House amendment. It had substantial legislative support. To review, the bill would require general-purpose committees to report contributions over $5,000 from the ninth day before an election until the second day before an election. The report must include the amount of the contribution, the full name and address of the contributor, and the dates. Heretofore, the public has not been aware of large contributions made by special interests to PACs until after an election. This has been referred to as “late train” contributions, providing a disclosure loophole big enough to drive a train though. The League has supported this part of campaign finance reform for several sessions. The next step is the governor’s signature.