Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has sued his former trusted campaign manager for allegedly siphoning off more than $2 million in campaign funds over five years.
The suit in Travis County state court claims that Kenneth “Buddy” Barfield — a well-known Austinite who managed Dewhurst’s successful campaigns for more than a decade — began the skimming sometime prior to 2010 by collecting payments for false invoices from a Barfield consulting company, Alexander Consulting.
The allegations provided some new detail about the case that made headlines in December, when Dewhurst fired Barfield after discovering more than $600,000 was missing from campaign accounts. That amount has since increased to perhaps as much as $2.3 million, Dewhurst aides said.
“Barfield would issue numerous invoices from the Alexander Group for services allegedly provided, such as large television buys,” states the lawsuit, which alleges theft, fraud and breach of fiduciary responsibility. “In reality, such invoices were fake or substantially inflated. When the invoices were paid, Barfield would pocket the money.”
Barfield could not immediately be reached for comment. He has remained mum since Dewhurst went public with the allegations.
The missing funds are the subject of separate federal and state criminal investigations because they involved not only state campaign funds but a federal campaign account from Dewhurst’s failed run for the U.S. Senate last year. He lost to Ted Cruz in a surprise upset.
The suit also offers this explanation of why the scheme went undetected for several years: “The large amount of activity and expenditures during campaign years allowed Barfield to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars through fictitious and inflated invoices.”
It continues: “In non-campaign years, the scheme was harder to pull off. Accordingly, Barfield would attempt to hide his theft of money from committee bank accounts. Since both committees were required to publicly disclose their finances on a regular basis, Barfield’s scheme included creating false deposit slips and checks right before reporting deadlines in order to create the impression that monies had been deposited.”
Dewhurst earlier said that both his state campaign account and his federal Senate account had allegedly been tapped.
When confronted with evidence of missing campaign funds, Barfield “confessed to the scheme and was immediately discharged,” the suit says. Barfield had already expressed an intention to retire as Dewhurst’s campaign manager, it says.
The suit seeks no specific amount of damages.
No hearing date has yet been set for the case, court officials said.
Investigators would not comment Thursday on the status of the investigations, nor on the allegations in the suit.
The case has proved to be an embarrassment for Dewhurst, a successful, multimillionaire Houston businessman who is known as a meticulous number-cruncher as the presiding officer of the Senate. He earlier said he intended to pursue a variety of actions against Barfield to seek restitution for the campaign funds that were reported missing.