Most Texans would be forgiven for not knowing what the state’s Railroad Commission does, or how the commission’s chair — Christi Craddick — and her politically prominent family earn money off hundreds of oil and natural gas leases checkered across the state — part of the same industry she was elected to regulate.
Intro: Texas’ Oil Empire
Record production has pumped billions of dollars into private and corporate bank accounts. Oil and gas severance taxes have provided a windfall to help the state fund everything from highways to teacher salaries. In the next budget cycle, that collection is projected to top $10 billion.
Part 1: Booming Business
KXAN discovered, since the start of 2014, Craddick voted at least 320 times on agenda items brought by companies that pay her and her family royalties or dividends. We also found she cast more than 100 votes on enforcement actions against those companies.
Part 2: Family Ties
As oil production has boomed and the Craddick family’s oil wealth has increased, so has their political clout. When Christi assumed office in 2013, it ensured the Craddick name would be one of the most powerful and widely-renowned in the state’s history.
Part 3: Conflict Concerns
Texas’ upcoming legislative session could face a renewed push for ethics reform at the state’s Railroad Commission. Transparency regarding commissioners’ business connections has come under fire in recent years — a call for change now reignited by a KXAN investigation.