Oil Empire

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Watch the Complete Investigation Below

KXAN drills into the ethics of industry regulators.

KXAN drills into the ethics of industry regulators.

Critics call for more transparency of the Texas Railroad Commission.

Critics call for more transparency of the Texas Railroad Commission.

KXAN journeys to West Texas to investigate a political family’s ties to an oil empire.

KXAN journeys to West Texas to investigate a family’s ties to an oil empire.

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