Dogged Determination Uncovers Corruption

It began with an illustration made by a staffer at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (on an agency computer during work hours) that was leaked to investigative reporter Jay Root of The Texas Tribune. The illustration, which depicted top alcohol regulators on a plane to an industry conference in California, waving bottles of Lone Star Beer, helped cement the story as a bonafide scandal among lawmakers and the general public.

Root’s initial report showed top honchos at the TABC had spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars traveling to swanky resorts outside Texas and staging lavish conferences at home, all with financial assistance from the liquor industry they were supposed to be regulating.

Within two weeks of the first story landing, the Texas House voted unanimously to bar most out-of-state trips by the agency and restrict its use of money from outside groups funded by the liquor industry. Within a month, TABC officials were being grilled on the Tribune’s reporting at an ethics hearing at the Capitol. Four days after that, TABC Chief Sherry Cook stepped down, a move Gov. Greg Abbott called “a good start.” Six more members of the agency’s executive management soon followed, and the governor appointed an interim director — a lawyer with a military background — to get the TABC “back on track.”

In less than four months, Root’s reporting triggered the mass departure of the top management at a powerful state agency that had lost its way, clearing the way for reform. Click on the video below to hear how Root’s dogged determination uncovered state agency corruption.

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