Legislators who work against the interests of taxpayers tend to have an easier time raising money than conservatives. The crony interests in Austin pad their pockets with government spending and then share that cash with legislators who keep the programs going.
For nearly a decade, the Fiscal Responsibility Index has quantified legislators’ commitment to limiting the size of government, fiscal restraint, and free enterprise. Over the years those lawmakers that have scored highest on it have received the most support from voters.
Yet according to financial reports compiled by TransparencyTexas.org, those lawmakers who score the worst tend to raise the most money.
In the current election cycle, twenty of the 98 members of the House Republican caucus raised more than $300,000. But of those, only four earned passing grades (above a 70 percent) on the Index.
Upon reviewing the data, which we adjusted to include only House members who ran for reelection, it appears that the worse a lawmaker performs on the Index, the more they are able to raise from the Austin crony establishment. The rule is almost formulaic; those members with failing grades in the low 60’s rake in almost double the House Republican average as seen by the trend line on the chart below, created by the author from data available at TransparencyTexas.org.
A large portion of the average fundraising numbers of those who earn failing grades on the Index stems from the efforts of Straus lieutenants fighting for their political lives such as State Reps. Charlie Geren (R–Fort Worth), Byron Cook (R–Corsicana), Wayne Smith (R–Baytown), and Doug Miller (R–New Braunfels).
Combined, the four of them raised just shy of $4 million—13% of the total raised by the 98-member Republican caucus.
The staggering sum was enough to save Geren and Cook, who narrowly escaped defeat on primary election night, but not Smith or Miller, who were defeated in runoff elections.
Similarly conservative stalwarts Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) and Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving), who successfully staved off assaults from the Republican Party’s establishment wing, are responsible for much of the fundraising numbers for those who earned an “A” on the Index.
But unlike the other four, the lobby had no interest in funding their reelection. Instead, they turned to their constituents and grassroots conservatives across the state to fund their campaigns and send them back to Austin. The result was a record effort fueled by citizens rather than the Austin establishment.
Without their fundraising prowess, the fundraising average for those members that earned the distinction of “Taxpayer Champion” would fall to $112,379.62, revealing an even greater disparity between those who refuse to go along to get along and those who sell out.
While the initial conclusions are interesting enough, Texas Transparency offers easy access to the rest of the financial reports as well. With the current TEC website objectively defined as “impossibly hard to navigate, confusing, and unclear,” the new site offers an intuitive alternative that grassroots activists can easily navigate.