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The press release landed late on a Friday afternoon: State officials had found 95,000 “noncitizens” on the Texas voter rolls — and 58,000 of those people had voted. The reaction from GOP state leaders, who have long pushed unsubstantiated claims of rampant voter fraud in Texas, was swift and certain. “VOTER FRAUD ALERT,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted. “Thanks to Attorney General Paxton and the Secretary of State for uncovering and investigating this illegal vote registration,” Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted, adding, “I support prosecution where appropriate.” Even President Donald Trump chimed in. “58,000 non-citizens voted in Texas, with 95,000 non-citizens registered to vote. These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg.” The state’s claims immediately raised red flags for our voting rights reporter, Alexa Ura. Ura knew the state had used driver’s license records — where applicants must reveal their citizenship status — to cross-reference the voter rolls and flag potential illegitimate voters. She also knew that in Texas, immigrants only have to renew their driver’s license every few years — meaning many thousands of people flagged by the state’s review had almost certainly become naturalized citizens before they registered and voted. Her breaking news story on state leaders’ “voter fraud” announcement explained those flawed methods and cast serious doubts on their claims. But her follow-up reporting — dozens of explanatory and investigative stories over as many weeks — had far greater impact than merely debunking irresponsible claims.
For nearly a year, the Texas Tribune’s Shannon Najmabadi and Jay Root have been on the hunt for records detailing the state’s spending on Gov. Greg Abbott’s 2019 inauguration. From a source, they obtained a program and fundraising solicitation for the celebration. The documents revealed that dozens of influential corporations and individuals — AT&T Corporation; H-E-B grocery; a handful of political appointees — had donated thousands of dollars for front-row access during the festivities — and, perhaps, beyond.
As Texas was nearing the end of a decade-long legal fight over homeowners' insurance rates with the Famers Insurance Group, the company's employees PAC gave $50,000 to the gubernatorial campaign of Attorney General Greg Abbott — the top lawyer in the state's case against the company. That raised questions about the settlement reached in the case, which seemed, according to one judge involved, as though the state was being "deferential to Famers."