Being a chairman in the Texas House pays well, according to a new analysis from Transparency Texas.
The organization, known for combing through campaign financial reports and documents to bring greater transparency to Texas politics, writes in a new report that top House chairmen raised 395 percent of the amount raised by their colleagues:
We compared the average value of the contributions to the top five most powerful committee chairmen in the House to the average value of the contributions of the rest of the House members. Specifically, we compared donations to the Chairmen of the House Calendars, Appropriations, Ways & Means, State Affairs, and Public Education Committees to the donations to the rest of the House members. Typically the most important, most high-profile pieces of legislation end up before these committees.
What we found was astounding.
Our results showed that in the fundraising season after the 2015 legislative session, the chairmen of the top committees brought in on average 248 percent more than the rest of their colleagues. After the 2017 season, the chairmen of the top committees brought in a whopping 395 percent compared to the average amount brought in by their colleagues.
This information can help shed light on some of the circumstances surrounding the recent scandal involving Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Though Bonnen had been caught on a recording offering media credentials in exchange for the political targeting of some of his Republican colleagues, calls for him to step down initially trickled out from rank-and-file members, while chairmen like State Reps. Jeff Leach (R–Plano) and Drew Springer (R–Muenster) were quick to forgive him and look the other way.
In fact, only after a group of high-ranking chairmen—including Republican State Reps. Lyle Larson (San Antonio), Four Price (Amarillo), Chris Paddie (Marshall), and Dan Huberty (Kingwood)—released a statement calling on him to step down was Bonnen ultimately forced to retire.
Controlling who he appoints to chairmanships (and thus, who has access to more campaign cash) is just one of the ways the speaker of the House can exercise authority and control over the chamber.