Tribpedia: Bidness As Usual Project

Tribpedia

With a conflict disclosure system rife with holes, virtually toothless ethics laws often left to the interpretation of the lawmakers they are supposed to regulate, and a Legislature historically unwilling to make itself more transparent, Texans know exceedingly little about who or what influences the people elected to represent them. And they have no way to differentiate between lawmakers motivated ...

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News App: Expanding the Ethics Explorer

We've expanded the elected officials in our Ethics Explorer to include the nine judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the 15 members of the State Board of Education. We've also updated our existing analysis on members of the Legislature to include bills authored and sponsored during the 83rd legislative session. 

Gov. Rick Perry shakes hands with well-wishers after his announcement that he will not seek reelection in 2014.
Gov. Rick Perry shakes hands with well-wishers after his announcement that he will not seek reelection in 2014.

Polling Center: Ethics and Public Opinion of Rick Perry

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Texas voters are concerned about public ethics, and about some of the issues that have attached to the governor over the last 12 years — but they're partisan about it, and that has made all the difference for Rick Perry.

Pension Rules to Benefit 10 in Congressional Delegation

A vote by the Texas Legislature to raise state district judges' salaries will benefit lawmakers whose state pensions are based on the judges' salaries. Among those benefiting are 10 members of Texas' congressional delegation. While some say the practice is suspect, others say that it is fair for lawmakers who have moved on from state positions.

Lawmakers Collect Daily Pay Even in Recess

It doesn't feel much like there's a special session going on at the state Capitol, but that doesn't mean taxpayers won't get a bill for it. Lawmakers get paid whether they're here or not. Throw in travel costs and legal fees and the bill could easily exceed $1 million.

Video: Session of Transparency Fell Short

When it came to passing major ethics reforms that would have increased transparency for elected officials, the 83rd Legislature didn't make much headway. Neither lawmakers nor the governor — who vetoed a bill that would’ve required outside groups to report their donors — seemed to have the appetite for increased public disclosure. 

Interactive: Track Public Education Donors

Whether they have a longstanding interest, like H-E-B CEO Charles Butt, or are branching into new territory, like Texans for Lawsuit Reform, some of the state's top political donors advocate for education issues. Use this interactive to track their contributions to the lawmakers who make decisions on policies affecting the 5 million students in Texas' public schools.

Interactive: Track Energy and Environmental Lobbying

From protecting endangered lizards to changing industry standards on fracking, energy and environmental groups have many — sometimes competing — political interests in Texas. Use this interactive to track campaign contributions by some of the most influential energy and environmental lobbying groups and individual donors in Texas.

Sen. John Carona.
Sen. John Carona.

For John Carona, Conflicts and Interests

The constitutional provision of a part-time Legislature whose members have full-time jobs back home limits the power of state government but blurs the line between public responsibilities and personal ambition — as the story of a rich and powerful state senator from Dallas illustrates.

For Lawmakers, Ethics Reform is Complicated

It's easier, it seems, for lawmakers to regulate others than to regulate themselves. Ethics and transparency legislation has had a bumpy ride in the current legislative session. Lawmakers turned away proposals to tighten their personal financial disclosures — stricter federal standards were suggested by some as a good model — and to put those reports online where voters can see them.

 

Lawmaker Financial Statements Added to Ethics Explorer

State lawmakers' personal financial statements for the 2012 calendar year were due April 30, but several lawmakers filed for extensions, pushing their due dates to July 1. As for the 115 lawmakers who did file, the Tribune has you covered. Use our Ethics Explorer to see what lawmakers disclosed in their most recent filings.

Questions of Contradiction in Ethics Bills

In this session's ethics battles, watchdogs say there’s more contradiction than conviction. Lawmakers want politically active nonprofits to disclose their donors, but are in no rush to reveal their own business contracts. The same nonprofits want lawmakers to be more transparent with public money, but want to protect the privacy of their own donors. 

A Pay Raise With a Little Something Extra

Lawmakers are talking seriously about a 21.5 percent pay raise for state district judges. That raise would also mean a 21.5 percent bump in the pensions of lawmakers. It's a vote that opens politicians to criticism for fluffing their own financial pillows while leaving other budget items without enough money.

Disclosure Bills Get Little Love From Top Leaders

Texas Weekly

"Government transparency" is the term du jour for state leaders. But with just four weeks remaining in the legislative session, there has been little to no pressure from the top, including key committee chairs, to pass measures that would force greater transparency — and better disclosure — upon Texas’ elected officials.