It’s complicated, especially when your stories keep changing.
The first was to Oklahoma, where internal emails from the Department of Agriculture indicated he planned the trip solely to obtain the Jesus Shot, which some believe cures all pain for life. Miller, who claimed the trip’s intent was to meet with Oklahoma lawmakers, said he would repay the state for the trip out of an “abundance of caution” after it was revealed in March by the Houston Chronicle that he missed a meeting with the state agriculture commissioner, Jim Reese.
“There was an official purpose for him to be in Oklahoma, and that was to meet with the commissioner of the state of Oklahoma,” insisted Todd Smith, Miller’s political consultant of 17 years, on Thursday. Smith attributed the missed meeting to a “comedy of errors.” He could not answer why those issues were not discussed at a conference both Reese and Miller attended just days before the so-called Jesus Shot trip.
Miller also traveled to Mississippi on the state’s dime, where he participated in the National Dixie Rodeo. When asked about the trip, the Department of Agriculture provided more than one version of how it came to pass, and late Thursday, Smith offered a much different account than his boss.
Initially, the Houston Chronicle reported that Miller took the state-paid trip to Mississippi to participate in the National Dixie Rodeo but sometime after that tried to set up a work meeting with the Magnolia State’s agriculture officials, making it a legitimate state-covered business trip. Miller said after those meetings fell through, he repaid the state for the trip with campaign funds because he also met with donors and advisers.
More than a week before the Chronicle story, Miller’s then-communications director Lucy Nashed told The Texas Tribune that the Mississippi trip — which was always designed to be a personal trip — was mistakenly booked by a staffer as a business trip. Once the staffer realized the trip was personal, Nashed said, Miller repaid the state for the trip out of campaign funds and $16.79 from his nursery’s business account. Earlier this month, Nashed resigned, saying there was a “tremendous lack of communication” at the department.
Miller has told the Tribune there was “absolutely no validity” to the complaints from liberal advocacy group Progress Texas that led to the Rangers investigation, calling them “harassment.”
“There’s nothing absolutely illegal or wrong with either of those trips,” he said.
But on Thursday, Miller’s political consultant told the Tribune a new version of the Mississippi trip. He said it was always supposed to be a business trip to meet with Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith and that those meetings did occur, contrary to what his boss has previously said.
“I think there was some discrepancy about whether or not he had a meeting with her on that trip,” Smith said. “He met with her multiple times. He went to the rodeo with her.”
Tribune attempts to confirm whether Mississippi officials met with Miller have been unsuccessful.
As for Miller’s rodeo-ing while on a state-paid trip, Smith said there was nothing wrong with it and compared it to buying souvenirs while on a business trip.
“He can’t flip a switch and say, ‘I’m no longer the agriculture commissioner here, and I’m the agricultural commissioner now,’” Smith said.
Well, when most of us buy souvenirs on business trips, we pay for them with our own money. We don’t put them on the company card and then claim that we intended he purchase to be for business purposes when the accounting department asks us to explain the expenditure. And I for one can’t wait to hear what Commissioner Hyde-Smith has to say.
Actually, as it turns out, we don’t have to wait.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has met with his Mississippi counterpart multiple times since being elected, but there are no records indicating any meeting during Miller’s trip to the Magnolia State to compete in a rodeo in February 2015.
Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith traveled to Austin to meet with Miller in December 2014, and the two also spoke during conferences in February and June of 2015, according to emails and budget records released by the State of Mississippi. No documents exist about a meeting during Miller’s trip, however.
Texas officials also said they have no records of any meeting during the trip.
The absence of records appear to undercut statements made by Miller and his political consultant, Todd Smith.
I’m sure you can imagine my reaction to this, but just in case you can’t:
It’s like one big Meghan Trainor video up in here. What really boggle my mind is that there was no real reason to make up another explanation. Miller’s previous excuse, however risible, was at least consistent. Why would you go to the trouble of offering a new, easily fact-checked reason and thus keep this part of the story in the news? Like Dogbert once said, sometimes no sarcastic remark seems adequate.
Now you may be asking yourself, what happens if Miller finally does resign? Who would be best suited to step in for him? Well, don’t you worry, never fear, Jim Hogan stands ready to be called to service.
A criminal investigation into Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has just begun, and while it is far too early to speculate about its result, one candidate is putting his name forward for any opening necessitated by a resignation: Jim Hogan, the Cleburne farmer who opted not to campaign when the Democratic Party nominated him to run against Miller in 2014.
Hogan said in an interview that he has been closely following the news about Miller and believes it could end in him being appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to fill the position.
“Well, of course,” Hogan said. “If you had a tournament and the first guy was disqualified, wouldn’t you pick the guy that got second? Why would you pick someone who got out in the quarterfinals?”
For Hogan, the spending is troubling, but he said he also was disturbed by another aspect that had not gotten very much attention — the fact that both trips took place during work days.
“I’m just different,” Hogan said. “If I wanted to go to a rodeo, I guess I’d find one on a Saturday.”
Well, you can’t argue with that. I just wonder, did Jim Hogan call reporter Brian Rosenthal to tell him what he thought about this situation, or did Rosenthal call him out of a sincere desire to know what Jim Hogan was thinking about this? In ether case, I’m sure someone will advise Greg Abbott of Hogan’s readiness. Paradise in Hell has more.