Texas Tribune files lawsuit for Gov. Abbott’s inaugural spending information

State of Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Tribune put out a report Monday about Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s record setting inaugural spending.

The report showed the governor’s spending has increased exponentially since his last inauguration in 2015 and more than doubled since Rick Perry was in office.

Over $1.8 million of the $5.3 million raised for the inaugural event went to fundraising, professional fees and inaugural committee salaries. Fundraising alone made up 19% of the $4.9 million raised by donors.

Jay Root, one of the writers of the Tribune story, said the governor’s spending in this year’s inaugural is an outlier not only in Texas’ past, but nationally.

“We compared it to the state of Florida,” Root said. “We compared it to the Trump inaugural. The fundraisers got an extraordinary 19% of the money. We’re told by fundraisers that’s just off the charts.”

Credit: Carla Astudillo and the Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is looking for answers of how this money was spent, but the inaugural committee won’t give anymore information and could get dissolved.

Now, the Tribune has filed a lawsuit to get spending information from the committee. Both the governor and secretary of state were named in the lawsuit.

The Tribune’s lawyer Bill Aleshire said this is the first time in 50 years he’s seen something like this.

“This case is going to test the idea that state officials can get together and conceal records of how $5.3 million was spent by a (state) agency, regardless of whether it’s public funds or not it’s spent by a state agency, by simply making the state agency disappear or at least go in hiding,” Aleshire said.

Root said the committee is fighting tooth and nail to keep every receipt from them. He said the only receipts he’s gotten is from when they reimbursed the City of Austin Convention Center because they’re subject to the open records act.

Root said the inaugural committee is subject to the open records act as well.

It’s not only an outlier in spending, but also in transparency. Root said they were able to find inaugural spending records dating back to 1979. He said even Abbott’s 2015 inauguration had more records.

“We know you’re able to see did somebody get some money they shouldn’t have gotten,” Root said. “The records are there. You can’t destroy bank records.”

Aleshire said the state is not only fighting to keep the Tribune from having hearings in court, but also from finding what records existed, who’s got them, where are they and why aren’t they giving them to the Tribune.

“It should be as transparent as any other state agency,” Aleshire said. “The public needs to know their new governor and lieutenant governor is not doing something in the inauguration that might be offensive.”

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