OK, it was a rodeo in Mississippi, but I wasn’t going to ruin a good headline. The point is, that clown’s name was Sid Miller.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller used a combination of taxpayer money and campaign funds to fly to Mississippi last year to compete in a rodeo for prize money, according to newly obtained records.
Miller spent nearly $2,000 in state and campaign cash on the three-day trip to Jackson, Miss., in February 2015, in the middle of last year’s legislative session, records show. He used an agriculture department credit card for the airplane flights and a campaign account card for a hotel room and a rental car.
Weeks later, he wrote a check from his campaign account to reimburse the state for the flights, according to department records.
During the trip, Miller spent two days competing in calf-roping events at the horse show at the Dixie National Rodeo, according to the Mississippi Quarter Horse Association. He won $880.
Miller did not have any scheduled meetings or events other than the horse show, according to his calendar.
“It was a personal trip so he could compete in a rodeo,” Texas Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said.
State law prohibits officeholders from using state money or campaign funds for travel that is primarily personal in nature.
Miller said the trip did not violate the law.
The agriculture commissioner acknowledged that he decided to go to Mississippi so he could compete in the horse show but said that after making that plan, he tried to set up a work meeting. He said he paid for the airplane flights with state money because he thought the meeting would happen but acknowledged it never actually was scheduled.
It was still a justifiable campaign expense, Miller said, because while at the horse show he spoke with the Mississippi agriculture commissioner and several rodeo participants and vendors who had donated to his campaign.
Ethics experts said the trip would be problematic if Miller benefited personally from state money or campaign donations.
Ross Fischer, a former Texas Ethics Commission chairman, pointed to a 1996 commission ruling that politicians cannot use even campaign money “if the primary purpose of the trip is personal.”
Buck Wood, a former state elections official, said “the fact that he ran into some people at the rodeo does not change the fact that the purpose of the trip was to compete in a rodeo.”
As noted later in the story, Miller’s office did not initially release emails relating to this trip, just as they did not originally release emails relating to his illicit trip to Oklahoma, for which a complaint has been filed. It was only later, when a more specific request that included references to the Mississippi rodeo was filed that they coughed up these emails. At this point, we have to conclude that there is a pattern of behavior here, and that Miller just can’t help himself. He’s a grifter, he’s using this office to live his best life, and what are you going to do about it? It would be nice if someone were to ask Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and Ken Paxton that question, and it would be even nicer if one of them deigned to reply. Trail Blazers has more.