The Fighting Texas Aggie Band practices before performing at the oath of office ceremony at the Texas Capitol on Jan. 15, 2019. Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune.
You’re a public official just reelected to office. You get your friends to raise $5.3 million, throw an inauguration ceremony and party and candlelight dinner, spend all the money, and shred the receipts. Or burn them. Or put them in a drawer nobody will ever open. Just put them where the sun won’t shine.
This is about the state’s top two elected officials, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and the committee they appointed to put together their inauguration this year. The Texas Tribune’s Jay Root and Shannon Najmabadi reported the details last week, including the fact that the Tribune has sued under open record laws to get the details of how the money was spent.
The committee, headed by Abbott’s campaign director, says it has no detailed records of how it spent that $5.3 million. It gave the Texas Secretary of State’s office a one-page financial summary with 11 broad categories of expenditures. They spent $2.4 million on the inaugural ball and special events, $930,927 on fundraising, $898,865 on payroll and $800,000 on charitable contributions, among other things.
Just on the surface, for instance, that looks like a sweet deal for the fundraisers, who according to the numbers, got to keep about 17.5% of the money they raised. And the charities did almost as well. But who were the fundraisers? And what charities benefited?
If you’re going to claim that you’re running your government like a business — heck, if you’re going to run your business like a business — you have to keep your receipts.
Ask your accountant. Ask your lawyer. Ask anyone with genuine business experience.
You have to track expenses. You have to know where the money went and where it’s going. Receipts are information. They are evidence. The nitty gritty.
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