George P. Bush, Texas land commissioner and Jeb's son, hired most of staff in legally suspect way

George P. Bush, Texas land commissioner and Jeb's son
(Image credit: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Last week, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush responded to criticism from his predecessor that he had replaced nonpartisan bureaucrats at the General Land Office with loyalists by explaining that many of the employees that he inherited in January were making too much money. "We're going to try our best to make it more objective, more fair, based about not your relationships, but based upon what you bring to the table," he said of his office, which oversees 13 million acres of Texas public lands, including leasing mineral rights to oil and gas companies. On Monday, the Houston Chronicle reported that a full 76.4 percent of Bush's new employees were hired without advertising the jobs, in probable violation of state law.

Bush, a son of Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, isn't alone. Seven top Texas officials elected in 2014 — including Bush, Gov. Greg Abbott (R), and Attorney General Ken Paxton — have hired 146 people with personal or political connections, along with 33 other people also given jobs without any competition, according to the Chronicle's Brian M. Rosenthal. Those 179 unadvertised jobs, prohibited under a 1991 law, represent 15.4 percent of the hires of these seven officials over the past 11 months, but Bush is bending the curve, handing out 55 of 72 jobs without competition, including creating a "special counsel" position for law school friend Hector Valle, 37. Another new hire, his chief of staff, was an aide to his uncle, George W. Bush.

On Monday, Bush defended his decision to hand-pick his staff without advertising the jobs, explaining that he "needed to move quickly because I got sworn in Jan. 2 and the legislative session began virtually the week after.... I needed to bring in people that I trust." After Rosenthal noted that Bush filled 14 of those unadvertised jobs in July, Bush said "there's been a thought process behind each selection." The hires are "not just bringing in friends and acquaintances," he added. "I want to bring in the best people." Going forward, though, "every single position that will be open will be offered to the public," Bush told the Chronicle. "There will be an open selection process."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.