Rail Road Commissioner Contributions

A KLTV 7 investigation shows the Texas officials who regulate the oil and gas industry are getting record campaign contributions from the industry they regulate.

We asked local politicians if a system like this is to be trusted.

Mayor Joey Seeber, "This reminds me of the 60 Minutes spot that was done on the Texas Supreme Court a few years ago. It was called, "Justice For Sale," because of the huge contributions that plaintiffs lawyers were making to the supreme court candidates at the time. I think we've got a similar situation here."

When Mayor Joey Seeber went to Austin to fight the CenterPoint rate hike, he hoped to get it lowered for his Tyler neighbors.

"I think we got a good hearing. I think we made our case, and I think we were right. I still think we're right. The problem is that it's hard to accept the decisions they make, when they accept hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars from the oil and gas industry."

KLTV 7 News found that in 2004, Railroad Commissioner Chairman Victor Carrillo took nearly a half a million dollars in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry.

So in a system where the regulators are taking money from the regulated, who is serving the best intersts of Texans?

Senator Kevin Eltife told us, "I think the whole system should be looked at. I really do. And particularly the Railroad Commission. They are basically regulating utilities, and if the majority of their contributions are coming from those utilities, then I think that's maybe something we ought to look at."

What the railroad commisioners are doing is not illegal.

Representative Leo Berman said, "It is standard practice because that's the way it's been done in Texas for the last hundred and twenty some-odd years. But that doesn't mean it should continue."

Mayor Seeber says it creates doubt in the minds of voters about the decisions made by railroad commissioners.

"This is the commission that is hired, elected by the people of the state of Texas, to regulate that industry, and to regulate the gas prices that we pay. And it's hard for consumers to have confidence in that regulation, when the industry that they're regulating provides the bulk of their contributions for them."

Mayor Seeber says we must change the system to make sure energy rate justice is never for sale on the Texas railroad commission.

KLTV 7 found out Texas politicians recieved more campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry than any other state.

15 million dollars, nearly twice as much as number 2 Oklahoma.

At the top of the list of recipients: Governor Rick Perry, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst.

Lindsay Wilcox, reporting.  lwilcox@kltv.com