We’ve promised to explain how political power and political money, particularly big dollar PAC money, is divided in Texas into four tribes. Here’s how we did it:
To go beyond the typical Republic vs. Democrat narrative and understand the real story, we took a look at key votes that forced legislators to reveal their true stripes. Several political organizations publish legislative score cards which rank legislators on votes important to their cause. Texas Right to Life, for example, scores legislators on votes related to life issues. There are also non-partisan scorecards, such as the liberal-conservative index compiled by Dr. Mark Jones of Rice University. While these are instructive, often a legislator’s final vote doesn’t reveal his or her true intentions.
For example, State Representative Byron Cook is on record as voting in favor of the bill banning abortion-by-dismemberment, which became law in Texas during the 85th Legislative Session. Typical scorecards would show this as a conservative vote by State Rep. Cook. But that’s not the whole story. Transparency Texas detailed how State Rep. Cook, Chairman of the powerful House Committee on State Affairs, stalled and killed almost all pro-life legislation during the last two legislative sessions. As an example, he refused to allow the dismemberment abortion ban to have a hearing in his committee, going to great lengths around the Capitol to discredit the legislation. A last-minute maneuver by the self-described House Freedom Caucus allowed the dismemberment ban to be amended to another bill and receive a vote. At this point, forced to take a public stand and facing a conservative primary challenger, State Rep. Cook voted in favor of the very bill he had sought to kill in his committee.
Similarly, legislators often vote one way when a bill is on the floor, then go back and “amend” their vote to protect their record when on the campaign trail. In this way, the legislator can vote to ensure the outcome he or she desires, but later “amend” their vote in the record (which doesn’t change the outcome) to dodge accountability back home.
To avoid these misleading tactics, we examined tough, character-defining votes where legislators were forced to choose a side – votes where legislators were forced to reveal which political faction is indeed their tribe. We looked at votes like these, across varying issue sets, to determine which tribes to place legislators in. Next, we looked at which PACs support these legislators. The results were consistent. Legislators vote consistently. Certain PACs give the most money to certain legislators. The logic isn’t hard. Legislators fall into political tribes and so do PACs.
Finally, we’ll show you our analysis. We looked at two PACs from each of the four political tribes in Texas and examined the strategy behind their giving to politicians, and what that likely means to citizens.
How PACs operate can be confusing, and determining which PACs are one your side vs. those that aren’t can seem impossible. But the truth is, a PAC’s ideology isn’t that difficult to ascertain. Here’s the deal:
PACs don’t invest their money evenly; they have certain politicians they support more than others. These are the legislators who most closely reflect the values of the PAC and thus “earn” the PACs money. Why else would PACs invest so much money in them?
The Bottom Line:
PACs and the key politicians they support belong to the same political tribes. We looked at the most prominent PACs in Texas and who gets their money. Specifically, we looked at the top ten recipients of campaign cash from these PACs. Based on how the recipients voted, we were able to determine the ideological position of the PACs and confirm their true alliances. What we found was that the big dollar PACs in Texas fell into ideological, political tribes just as clearly as the legislators they support.
An Easy Guide to the Big Money PACs in Texas Politics – In this Series: