KVUE Video: New app tracks money and votes in Texas politics

Influence Texas tracks how Texas lawmakers voted in the 2016 legislative session and who gave how much to Texas lawmakers.

Author: Jenni Lee
Published: 2:03 PM CDT September 9, 2018
Updated: 6:05 PM CDT September 9, 2018

AUSTIN — Just in time for the mid-term elections, a new app is tracking money and votes in Texas politics.

Influence Texas tracks how Texas lawmakers voted in the 2016 legislative session and who gave how much to Texas lawmakers.

With just the tap of the top donor tab, it was easy to find out who they are.

According to the app, the Texas Association of Realtors gave the largest amount during the last election cycle: More than $9.3 million.

Co-founder Michael Rollins said the information is beneficial for all voters.

"An average person can go look at what the voting record of their representatives is, right? There's no editorialization, there's no filtering, you have raw access to the data," said Rollins.

Without this app, that same information can be found on the Texas Ethics Commission.

Only you need filer identifications and codes. It can get complicated for users.

But Influence Texas gives you instant access.

It not only shows you how much Texas lawmakers received in donations but how they voted during the 2016 legislative session.

The co-founder said she created the app because she was fed up with the 2016 presidential election.

"I was also frustrated in the 2016 presidential election and just it's a toxic political environment and I really wanted a place where I could go get some information on Texas, Texas politicians quick and easy," she said.

They are already working on a future version of Influence Texas that is expected to show several election cycles instead of just the most recent one. A more comprehension app that gives even more access to all taxpayers.

Influence Texas is a public benefit corporation, a for profit group that measures its success through it's mission rather through profit. If you would like to help out, the co-founders urge you to sign up for their mailing list for future surveys.

Texas app offers campaign finance and voting records of state politicians

Influence Texas OS web app lets taxpayers track the influence of money in politics

Updated Sept. 13, 2018

AUSTIN, Texas – Sept. 4, 2018 — Influence Texas and Texans for Public Justice announce the release of Influence Texas OS, an open source web app providing campaign finance and voting records of Texas state politicians, enabling taxpayers to track the influence of money in politics.

For the first time Texans will be able to track top contributors and donations from the most recent election cycle. A future version of the app, Influence Texas PRO, will enable users to source donations by industry and match those donations to legislation across multiple election cycles.

“This data-driven solution combats misinformation and provides government transparency,” said Amy M. Mosley, co-founder of Influence Texas, a nonpartisan public benefit corporation dedicated to educating the Texas electorate. “We look forward to releasing Influence Texas PRO in the coming year,” said Michael Rollins, Influence Texas co-founder.

The Influence Texas OS open source web app uses campaign finance records provided by the Austin-based liberal nonprofit Texans for Public Justice, which has reported on political corruption and corporate abuses in Texas since 1997.

“For over two decades TPJ has gathered campaign contribution and expenditure data filed with the Texas Ethics Commission by all candidates, political committees, and political parties. We then process that information through a proprietary database,” said TPJ Director Craig McDonald. “TPJ is excited to directly reach a larger audience by collaborating with the Influence Texas open source project.”

The open source web app began as a project at ATX Hack for Change in June 2017 and is also supported by Open Austin, a volunteer organization affiliated with the nonprofit Code for America that advocates for open government, open data, and civic application development.

"Outside of immigration and border control, political corruption of leadership is a key concern for Texans and an issue of open government. By making data of our representatives more accessible and meaningful, Influence Texas aligns with Open Austin's mission of advocating for open government through the use of data, technology, and design," said Open Austin Brigade Co-Captain Victoria O'Dell.

Access Influence Texas OS at app.influencetexas.com. Find out how you can get involved at www.influencetexas.com/sign-up.

About Influence Texas, P.B.C.

Influence Texas is an Austin-based, nonpartisan public benefit corporation formed in June 2018 with the mission of informing the Texas electorate by aggregating and disseminating politicians' campaign finance records and voting records. Learn more at www.influencetexas.com.

About Texans for Public Justice

Texans for Public Justice is an Austin-based non-profit organized in 1997 to take on political corruption and corporate abuses in Texas. Through intensive research and public advocacy the organization hopes to add a clear voice to debates on political reform, consumer protection, civil justice, and corporate accountability. TPJ obtains contribution and expenditure data dutifully filed with the Texas Ethics Commission by all candidates, political committees, and political parties and processes the information through a proprietary database. Learn more at www.tpj.org.

About Open Austin

Open Austin is a volunteer citizen brigade advocating for open government, open data, and civic application development since 2009. It is an official brigade affiliated with the nonprofit Code for America which believes government can work for the people, by the people in the 21st century. Learn more at www.open-austin.org.

Media Contact:

Amy M. Mosley
Influence Texas, P.B.C.
(512) 609-0752

Who's Running for Office in November

Several incumbents are running in districts with the potential to flip from one party to another in November state elections. Read the full story in Ross Ramsay' Texas Tribune column. Excerpts below.

  • Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas. Neave’s district was drawn for Republicans, but political erosion there made it possible for her to wrestle it away in the 2016 elections. Now she will run against Republican business owner Deanna Metzger.
  • Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin. Workman will face Democrat real estate agent Vikki Goodwin.

    Read the full results of Texas primary runoffs here.

    Info from Ramsay on vulnerable U.S. congressmen from Texas:

Three Republican congressional incumbents hold seats on Democratic wish lists and found out on Tuesday whom they will face. The most vulnerable, by the numbers, is U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Helotes, in the 23rd Congressional District. He’ll face Gina Ortiz Jones, who won easily on Tuesday, in a district where the average statewide Republican candidate won by just over 1 percentage point in 2016. It’s a true swing district.

In Dallas’ 32nd Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions will face Colin Allred who, like Ortiz Jones, handily won his runoff this week. Clinton beat Trump there by less than 2 percentage points in 2016; Abbott trounced Davis by 16 percentage points in 2014 in that district. It’s a tougher challenge, at least on paper, but the Democrats are hopeful that the president will have a traditionally dismal mid-term election.

And in Houston’s 7th Congressional District, Democratic Party favorite Lizzie Pannill Fletcher dispatched Laura Moser on Tuesday, setting up a challenge to U.S. Rep. John Culberson. He’s the third of the three Texas Republicans whose voters switched sides in 2016, favoring both their Republican incumbent in Congress and the Democrat, Hillary Clinton, in the top race. But it’s generally red ground; Abbott defeated Davis in Culberson’s district by almost 22 percentage points — a little better than his statewide average.


The 185 Mega Donors Who Run Texas

Using the database resource that will soon be available to taxpayers through the Influence Texas app, the nonprofit group Texans for Public Justice has compiled a list of the largest contributors of Texas campaign money in the most recent elections.

·      The top 185 contributors collectively spent $131 million during the two-year 2016 election cycle for non-federal Texas public offices.

·      The 185 mega-donors provided 67% of the $195 million total raised by all candidates for state offices.

·      The 185 donors spent from $250,000 to $9 million apiece.  Thirty-one gave over $1 million each.

See the full list here.