Texas Tribune sues to discover how $5.3 million in Abbott inaugural money was spent

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The Texas Tribune is suing to discover what happened to $5.3 million raised through ticket sales and donations to pay for the inauguration of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

During the summer, the news organization attempted to obtain expense records from multiple state agencies and the inaugural committee to determine how the money raised from lobbying firms, corporations, business people and others was spent, but the recipients of those open-record requests claim no such records exist.

The two-day festivities included a ball with musical entertainment from country star George Strait and a candlelight dinner with top Texas elected officials, the Tribune noted.

Bill Aleshire, an attorney representing the Tribune in the case, said the inaugural committee is a governmental body by law and its records should be available for public inspection.

“They are not allowed to keep secret the expenditures by this public entity any more than any other public entity can keep that secret,” he said. 

The Tribune story said the committee provided a report to the Texas Secretary of State’s office that only lists broad categories of expenditures, including $2.4 million for the inaugural ball and special events; $931,000 for fundraising; $899,000 for payroll and $800,000 in charitable donations.

The Tribune said it asked the offices of Abbott and Patrick for help in getting basic information about those expenditures, but most of those questions were not answered.

John Wittman, a spokesman for Abbott, told the Tribune that no donors or committee members received any of the money spent, either personally or through their companies. He declined to answer a question from the Tribune about whether Abbott felt the public deserved to know how the $5.3 million was spent. 

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