Paul Burka's Profile Photo

The dean of the Capitol press corps, senior executive editor Paul Burka joined the staff of Texas Monthly one year after the magazine’s founding, in 1973. For nearly forty years he has led the magazine’s political coverage and spearheaded its storied roundup of the Best and Worst Legislators each biennium. A lifelong Texan, he was born in Galveston, graduated from Rice University with a B.A. in history, and received a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law.

Burka is a member of the State Bar of Texas and spent five years as an attorney with the Texas Legislature, where he served as counsel to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Burka won a National Magazine Award for reporting excellence in 1985 and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award. He is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and teaches at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a frequent guest discussing politics on national news programs on MSNBC, Fox, NBC, and CNN.

News & Politics |
January 20, 2013

The Man Who Saved LBJ

Who deserves credit for Lyndon Johnson's newly burnished reputation? Harry Middleton, the director of the LBJ presidential library, who made hours and hours of White House audiotapes public—and in doing so, remade history.

Behind the Lines |
January 20, 2013

My Texas Women

I was raised by one, I married one, and I raised one myself—and I wouldn't be who I am without them.

Politics & Policy |
January 20, 2013

The Man Who Isn’t There

In word and deed, the George W. Bush now residing in the White House bears little resemblance to the Texas governor I gladly sent to Washington. That's why I'm so ambivalent about reelecting him.

Politics & Policy |
January 20, 2013

The Thrilla in Vanilla

The looming clash between Republican gubernatorial candidates Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison may not be as fearsome as the storied Ali-Frazier bout, but it’s the heavyweight showdown every Texas political junkie has been waiting for.

Texas History |
January 20, 2013

The Aggie Bonfire Tragedy

What’s so important about a stack of wood? Every Aggie knows that the answer is tradition—which is why, after a catastrophe that took the lives of twelve young men and women, the decision of whether to continue, change, or call a halt to the bonfire looms so large at Texas

Feature |
January 20, 2013

My Frail Island

The damage done by Hurricane Ike to Galveston, my beloved hometown, is in many ways worse than you’ve read about. And I’m not only talking about the physical devastation.

Letter From Galveston |
January 20, 2013

No Man’s Island

A year has passed since Hurricane Ike slammed into Galveston, but my hometown is still reeling from a storm without end.

Politics & Policy |
January 20, 2013

North Toward Dome

The best way to visit the Capitol, the state’s grandest public building, is to take the 45-minute guided tour. But there is much more to see if you know what to look for, and I’m going to tell you precisely that.

Feature |
January 20, 2013

The Man Who Wasn’t There

Every family has its myths. Some are intended to reveal, and some are intended to conceal, and sometimes the intentions can get confused. The problem with myth, however, is that it can overpower history. That’s what happened in the case of my father, who died when I was four. Only

Texas History |
January 20, 2013

Squares

A masterpiece of courthouse architecture in Waxahachie, a handsome jail of native stone in Marfa: Significant structures line the streets of five terrific town centers.

Politics & Policy |
January 17, 2013

Guns in school and everywhere else

I can’t conceive of any valid argument against expanded federal background checks for gun sales. We came within one vote on the Public Safety committee when Bush was governor of passing a requirement for background checks, and my recollection is that Bush killed it with a phone call.If

Politics & Policy |
January 16, 2013

What George P. should do

First, he should stop saying that he’s running for office but hasn’t made up his mind about which one. It makes him sound like a dilettante: someone who thinks he’s God’s gift to Texas politics, instead of a serious politician. He is leaning toward running for Land Commissioner,

Politics & Policy |
January 16, 2013

Does Perry’s fundraising hint at his plans?

UPDATED: 2:29 pmThe governor raised $3.554 million during the fundraising period that ended on January 15. His total cash on hand is $6.028 million. This level of activity (or inactivity) strongly suggests that Perry is not running for reelection. It is nowhere near enough for a governor’s race–remember that he

Politics & Policy |
January 15, 2013

So, about that budget . . .

I don’t get it. We have the biggest revenue estimate in the history of the state, $101 billion, and it appears that the House and Senate want their budgets to be under 2011 numbers, which was the worst year in the history of the state. This is absolutely nuts.

Politics & Policy |
January 14, 2013

Week 1 in Review

The most important thing that happened in week one was the comptroller’s revenue estimate. For the first time in several sessions, the state has enough money to address long-neglected issues. Money makes all the difference in the world. When there is money in the treasury, anything is possible. When

Politics & Policy |
January 10, 2013

Prelude to cronyism?

Rick Perry’s latest comment about CPRIT, the state’s embattled cancer-fighting agency, is disturbing. He says, six years after the agency was created with the mission of curing cancer, that the legislative intent included “creating wealth.” At the same time, Perry dismissed the importance of basic research, saying “Basic research takes

Politics & Policy |
January 8, 2013

Day 1: Two speeches

After the members of the House took the oath of office this afternoon, they heard from two of the state’s leaders. One was Joe Straus, who had just won a third term as speaker, this time by acclamation. The other was Rick Perry, who is presumed to be running for

Politics & Policy |
January 7, 2013

Day 0

As Yogi Berra is reputed to have said, “It’s deja vu all over again.” Tea party members made the rounds at the Capitol today, as they did on the day before the 2011 session started, in the hope of persuading lawmakers to oppose the reelection of Joe Straus as speaker.Why

Politics & Policy |
January 7, 2013

The Aggies and the Ecstasy

I attended the AT&T Cotton Bowl game on Friday, which is no longer played at the Cotton Bowl but rather in Jerry Jones’ mammoth Cowboys Stadium, often referred to in extraterrestial terms like “The Death Star” or “the mother ship.” The place to be during the game was the Chancellor

Politics & Policy |
January 3, 2013

The Simpson Rules Reforms

Before the New Year, David Simpson sent a letter to his House colleagues outlining his suggestions for revising the House Rules. I have considerable admiration for his efforts, and some of his ideas are worth implementing, starting with limiting the presence of committee chairs on Calendars. Simpson is correct in

Politics & Policy |
January 1, 2013

On the Money

As the Eighty-third Legislature gears up at the Capitol this month, will lawmakers be penny-wise and pound-foolish? Or just plain foolish?

Politics & Policy |
December 31, 2012

Dewhurst’s terrible year

One has to feel sorry for David Dewhurst. Has any recent Texas politician ever suffered through a worse year? He lost a Senate race that he was heavily favored to win; his campaign account is missing hundreds of thousands of dollars, allegedly due to the actions of his

Politics & Policy |
December 31, 2012

NY Times casts doubt on Tea Party’s future

From the Times: The Tea Party might not be over, but it is increasingly clear that the election last month significantly weakened the once-surging movement, which nearly captured control of the through a potent combination of populism and fury. Leading Congressional Republicans, though

Politics & Policy |
December 17, 2012

Science and the fetal pain abortion bill

The justification for the legislation lies in a fact (or, rather, an assertion) that cannot be proven: a fetus can experience pain starting at twenty weeks. My source is an article that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association for August 24/31 2005 under the headline

Politics & Policy |
December 17, 2012

The gun debate

I’ll state my position plainly. I don’t believe that the Second Amendment should be read as allowing Americans to own assault weapons. The Founding Fathers never envisioned the kind of arms that Americans possess today. Criminal gangs have more firepower than law enforcement.That said, here is an excerpt

Politics & Policy |
December 11, 2012

Toxic Mike

Last week Michael Quinn Sullivan posted a story on the Empower Texans web site headlined “Toxic Joe.” The reference, of course, is to Joe Straus, the speaker of the House, whom Sullivan has tried to remove from power, with nothing to show for his efforts. The Sullivan-imposed nickname

Politics & Policy |
December 10, 2012

Texas, gay marriage, and the Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear two cases involving same-sex marriage could provide yet another indication of how isolated Texas politics has become from the national mainstream. As James Carville pointed out on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, Americans’ opinions on same-sex marriage have changed with astonishing rapidity—but

Politics & Policy |
December 7, 2012

Simpson mulls race for speaker

Has the anti-Straus faction adopted a strategy of divide-and-conquer? That is, putting forth multiple candidates for speaker, which would muddy the waters and dilute the vote for Straus. The problem with this strategy is that neither David Simpson nor Bryan Hughes has demonstrated that he has the gravitas to be

Politics & Policy |
December 7, 2012

$19 billion dollars

That is how much Rick Perry has spent on recruiting companies to come to Texas—more than any other state in the country—according to the New York Times. Perry got a lot of attention for this story, but is it wasn’t the kind of attention that will benefit him