It has been nearly a year since Texans elected a whole new crop of state-level officials, and in that year, one theme that has tied these statewide Republicans together is their disregard for the offices they hold. There’s our Attorney General Ken Paxton, elected to be the state’s chief enforcer of the law, who instead has been indicted for three felonies. There’s also George P. Bush, the newly elected Land Commissioner, who has spent nearly half his time on vacation instead of doing his job.
A new report from the Houston Chronicle details yet another way statewide Republicans, at all levels, are disregarding the law. They’ve all ignored state law and hired their friends and campaign workers for jobs that should have been open to the public.
As the Chronicle noted, 1991’s HB 2556 required that:
“any agency, board, bureau, commission, committee, council, court, department, institution, or office in the executive or judicial branch of state government that has an employment opening for which persons from outside the agency will be considered shall list the opening with the Texas Workforce Commission.”
All of our state-level Republican officials have ignored that law at least once, and rewarded friends or political connections with offices that were never posted to the general public.
The graphic below, from the Chronicle investigation, shows just how rampant the problem is. The key column to pay attention to is the one on the far right, which shows what percent of the office’s new hires were made from unposted jobs:
In total, the Chronicle found that 15.4% of statewide officials’ new hires over the past year have been from unposted jobs. The average salary these cronies are receiving is $90,000, for a total of $16 million of state funds.
The worst offender? Land Commissioner George P. Bush. Over 76% of the jobs he’s hired for in the past year went to friends and political connections. Many have connections to his family, from former aides to President George H.W. Bush, to campaign fundraisers for his father Jeb! Bush. So, not only is George P. Bush taking a state salary to go on vacation and campaign for his dad, he’s using his office as a tool to reward his political cronies for their loyalty. Bush has since said he’ll post all future jobs, but the fact that he didn’t in the first place is yet another case of Bush family entitlement. (Remember, Jeb! likes to complain about black people getting “free stuff” from the government. Dude. Before you complain about other people, maybe take a look at your own son, who is giving your campaign fundraisers free government jobs.)
Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Crystal Perkins issued a strong statement condemning Republicans for their corruption:
“Texas Democrats believe that getting a good job ought to be about how much you know not who you know. But Republicans are rigging the game against Texas’ hard working people.
While Texans are struggling to earn jobs with better wages, Republicans are breaking state law and doling out $90,000 taxpayer-funded state jobs to their politically-connected cronies.
Republicans George P. Bush and Greg Abbott are the worst offenders and they ought to be ashamed of themselves. This is the kind of corruption that festers under one-party rule.“
She’s right. Straight-ticket Republican rule has serious consequences for Texas, and it’s not just in the form of the horrendous policies they’re enacting. One-party rule has enabled complacency about following the rules of elected office, even though these officials should be held to an even higher standard due to their responsibilities. It’s the kind of disregard for the law that has led to two of our state officials getting indicted in the course of a year, and we should hold the Republicans accountable.
But perhaps the most disappointing part of the original article is a quote from Craig McDonald at Texans for Public Justice, who explained why many watchdog groups feel that filing a public complaint against officials for hiring cronies isn’t viable. Said McDonald, “There are a million things wrong with the world, and we can’t complain about all of them.”
The sad thing is, he’s also right. In Republican-controlled Texas, there are so many problems that we have to prioritize which ones we want to fight. From poor policymaking to corruption, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for activists to address the many ways in which Republicans have trashed our state. That’s why it requires the efforts of more than just activists — it requires voters to turn out at the polls and show these officials that their corruption will not be tolerated. Until that happens, we will have to keep on picking our battles.