Last week, The Texas Monitor began its countdown of the state legislators from each chamber who have spent the most on personal perks from their campaign coffers. Our investigative series, Lifestyles of State Lawmakers, has explored campaign spending reports for the state legislature going back ten years, revealing the lobby-fueled lifestyles of lawmakers who get elected over and over without real competition. Starting off our list at #5 from each chamber were Representative Rene Oliveira and Senator Robert Nichols.
This week, we published reports on the #4 top spenders — Representative Eddie Lucio III of Brownsville and Senator John Whitmire of Houston.
Lucio made the list with over $300,000 in lifestyle expenditures. More than a third of that went toward his Austin accommodations, including $2,800 in monthly rent for a year-round apartment, even though the legislature only convenes for six months every other year. He has also spent over $25,000 furnishing his home away from home.
Another $70,000 in donor money went toward automotive expenses, including his Chevy Tahoe payment of $685 per month.
Lucio has also broadened his horizons with campaign-funded travel to places like Anchorage, Denver, Orlando, Santa Monica and Washington, D.C.
All of this is perfectly legal under Texas’ lax campaign regulations, and it’s also typical of the other top spenders on our list. Two areas in which Lucio stands out, though, is in liquor and electronics purchases.
Senator Whitmire’s signature campaign indulgence is sports. His season tickets with the Houston Texans, Rockets and Astros along with other outings add up to over $286,000 over the past decade.
Whitmire is also a trail blazer in accumulating stock in his campaign account—having amassed a $6.6 million portfolio.
But the senator splurges in the typical ways too—such as $140,000 on leased BMWs and related amenities and upkeep, and 26 trips to places like Hawaii and Canada.