In the article “Lifestyles of the Corrupt and Elected,” journalist Dave Mann of the Texas Observer takes a long, hard look at what he reports are the excessively lavish lifestyles of Texas politicians. Mann begins his investigative piece by highlighting one of Texas’s Republican representatives, Senator Troy Fraser. Mann uses Senator Fraser as an anecdotal example to showcase the depth and the severity of the problem of money in politics. Mann reports that despite Senator Fraser having a stronghold on his senatorial seat in Central Texas, the senator has earned himself approximately $1.3 million in campaign funds in the past two years alone (at the time “Lifestyles of the Corrupt and Elected” was written and published)(Mann, 2012). Mann continues to state that Senator Fraser, who is extremely comfortable in senatorial seat, has not used those campaign funds for financing his campaign or for some other campaign-related activity, but he has instead used the “campaign money to augment his lifestyle” (Mann, 2012). Indeed, Mann lists that Senator Fraser has spent hundreds of thousands of campaign funds on lavish items such as ski trips, luxury hotel stays, and vacations around the world with members of his family (who are not involved in his campaign)(Mann, 2012).
Senator Fraser is just the tip of the Texas-sized iceberg, according to Mann. Mann, along with his colleagues at the Texas Observer, found that numerous other Texas politicians had been using campaign funds for their own personal enjoyment. For example, when Greg Abbott was the Texas Attorney General, he “used campaign funds to pay off cell phone bills, which averaged $600 a month” (Mann, 2012). “Lifestyles of the Corrupt and Elected” also cites Texas politicians using campaign funds for luxury condo rentals, unnecessarily expensive “stuffed animal heads” (which racked up a bill of over $600), and dry cleaning bills (Mann, 2012). However, these ridiculous expenditures do not seem to have any repercussions in the modern political environment. Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott, who is listed above, escaped from this seemingly incriminating report unscathed, and he eventually became the governor of Texas.
This is the role of money in the modern political environment. According to Mann, Senator Fraser received a quarter of his campaign funds from the “finance, insurance and real estate industries” combined (Mann, 2012). One might think Senator Fraser is a rare case, but he is simply one of many. In fact, some Texas politicians, who receive their money from large corporations or political action committees (PACs), actually allow the donated money to influence their voting in the Texas legislature. In one example, Mann describes then-Governor Rick Perry. Perry received massive amounts of campaign funds from various, affluent donors, which including flights on private jets to fancy destinations: “Some of these donors weren’t flying Perry around simply out of generosity … Perry and his staff advocated for policies that would benefit the donor that flew them there” (Mann, 2012). In support of Mann’s claim about the role of money in politics, just this month the Washington Post reported in its article “Eleven donors have plowed $1 billion into super PACs since they were created” that a small, extremely wealthy group of people have been funneling money into politicians, such as Texas senators, in order to “exert influence” on upcoming legislature (Lee, 2018).
This is the state of politics and money in the Texas Legislature in the modern political environment. Today, politicians in Texas, individuals like Senator Troy Fraser, former Governor Rick Perry, and current Governor Greg Abbott, take handfuls upon handfuls of money from affluent donors, pay for their personal expenses, and then reward their respective donors with votes in the Texas senate. It is an abhorrent cycle that has corrupted politics in Texas and in the United States.
- Lee, M. Y. (2018). Eleven donors have plowed $1 billion into super PACs since they were created. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/eleven-donors-plowed-1-billion-into-super-pacs-since-2010/2018/10/26/31a07510-d70a-11e8-aeb7-ddcad4a0a54e_story.html?utm_term=.35e5c168bb28
- Mann, D. (2012). Lifestyles of the Corrupt and Elected. Retrieved from https://www.texasobserver.org/lifestyles-of-the-corrupt-and-elected/