For this week’s nonscientific survey of insiders in government and politics, we asked whether the secret camera project being conducted by a nonprofit sympathetic to conservatives spotlights the kinds of failings in public officials that most deserve scrutiny.
The insiders took two main approaches to the question. One in three said the biggest failing in a public official is misbehavior done while conducting official business or, as we put it, "on the clock." Another one in three said misbehavior "on the clock" and misbehavior while done on personal time, or "off the clock," is equally bad.
Just 4 percent said misbehavior "off the clock" was the biggest failing while about one in four said, "it depends."
We then asked which chamber has the upper hand as the session enters its final days. Almost three in five said the House is winning while one in six had the two tied on their scorecard. One in ten said the Senate is ahead.
For our final two questions, we revisited a topic first explored at the end of the previous legislative session: Who has the upper hand, the Tea Party or moderate Republicans?
Nearly half the insiders said the Tea Party's influence is stronger than two years ago. Another 27 percent said the group is weaker and 23 percent didn't think its influence has changed.
The insiders, though, were completely split on the moderates' influence. Thirty-two percent thought the moderates are in a stronger position and an identical percentage thought the moderates are in a weaker position. Another 33 percent saw no change in the moderates' influence.
We collected comments along the way, and a full set of those is attached. Here’s a sampling:
Here's a question prompted by the folks with secret cameras lurking at the Capitol: What's worse?
• "Times have changed. Public officials have always been considered to be pubic property, it's just that the technology of today coupled with the disappearance of the media's unseen rule about not going after pubic officials has created an environment that is without boundaries or rules. What you get is what we see."
• "Why is it legal to video/record someone without them being made aware? What public policy good comes from legal entrapment?"
• "It is easy to take statements out of context to create a questionable narrative. Any snapshot in time placed in a different scenario can appear far more extreme than in the original circumstances. I regularly asked my kid who was always 'telling on the teacher' — 'what happened just before that?'"
• "If it doesn't relate to or affect their legislative work, then it ain't nobody's business but their own. If it does, then it doesn't matter when it occurs — string 'em up. Either way, the camera dorks need a ride out to West Texas."
• "See Warren Burger definition of obscenity. And Jimmy Swaggart's definition of 'comeuppance.'"
Who’s winning right now?
• "I don't know who's winning but local control and trust in the electorate are losing."
• "By the end of the veto period, they'll all be claiming victory and fellowship. Outwardly. Inwardly, they'll still be seething."
• "The House had this deal sealed when they re-elected Joe Straus the Speaker of the House. Speaker Straus assured that win a little more when he appointed Dennis Bonnen the Chair of Ways & Means."
• "Patrick's partisan power vs. House stakeholder populism."
• "Senate always wins."
How does the influence of the Tea Party wing of the GOP in the Legislature compare to two years ago?
• "More of them theoretically, but influence waning. They help decide elections but like the proverbial dog that catches the car, don't quite know how to govern and often come off looking bizarre or out of the mainstream."
• "Lots of members still cater to them, but I don't see that they've necessarily increased their power. They still play at the fringes."
• "No change (maybe weaker) in the House, but much stronger in the Senate."
• "There SHOULD HAVE BEEN a more conservative Senate, but Patrick's chairman appointments negated any potential for a more conservative Senate."
• "When Ron Simmons gets attacked and stands his ground, they are losing."
How does the influence of the moderate wing of the GOP in the Legislature compare to two years ago?
• "Texas' GOP 'moderates' would be considered hard core conservatives in other states. It's not like our alleged moderates are cut from the same cloth as Massachusetts Republicans."
• "Moderate is the ubiquitous pejorative adjective used by the paid minions of billionaire libertarians toward all those who won't kowtow to them. Call them what they are: Conservative REPUBLICANS."
• "'Moderate wing' really just means the members who actually have a say in running the state. Legislation is built on compromise. The same leaders generally emerge."
• "The more people in the Legislature change, the more things stay the same."
• "The Cardinals are ruling in the House."
Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, Jay Arnold, James Bernsen, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Chris Britton, Raif Calvert, Snapper Carr, Corbin Casteel, Elna Christopher, Harold Cook, Kevin Cooper, Randy Cubriel, Denise Davis, June Deadrick, Holly DeShields, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Jack Erskine, Jon Fisher, Tom Forbes, Neftali Garcia, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Scott Gilmore, Eric Glenn, Jim Grace, Jack Gullahorn, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, John Heasley, Ken Hodges, Steve Holzheauser, Deborah Ingersoll, Mark Jones, Walt Jordan, Russ Keane, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Sandy Kress, Dale Laine, Nick Lampson, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Leslie Lemon, Ruben Longoria, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Jason McElvaney, Mike McKinney, Steve Minick, Mike Moses, Steve Murdock, Keats Norfleet, Todd Olsen, Gardner Pate, Robert Peeler, Wayne Pierce, Allen Place, Gary Polland, Jay Pritchard, Ted Melina Raab, Patrick Reinhart, David Reynolds, Carl Richie, Grant Ruckel, Tyler Ruud, Jason Sabo, Jim Sartwelle, Barbara Schlief, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Robert Scott, Steve Scurlock, Ben Sebree, Christopher Shields, Nancy Sims, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Mark Smith, Larry Soward, Leonard Spearman, Dennis Speight, Tom Spilman, Colin Strother, Tom Suehs, Sherry Sylvester, Sara Tays, Trey Trainor, Vicki Truitt, Corbin Van Arsdale, Ware Wendell, David White, Darren Whitehurst, Woody Widrow, Seth Winick, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.