Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush shouldn’t have accepted $27,500 in campaign contributions from executives with a company that landed a big contract with the agency that Bush runs, according to his Republican primary rival Jerry Patterson.
“If I were in his position, I wouldn’t have accepted $30,000 three days after the contract was signed,” Patterson, the former land commissioner, said Monday.
The Texas Tribune first revealed that the General Land Office awarded Horne LLP a $13.47 million contract Oct. 30 to help with Harvey recovery efforts and that three days later Bush’s re-election campaign reported receiving $27,500 from Horne executives, including $1,000 from Jonathan Krebs, the Horne partner who signed the contract.
It’s legal for employees of state government contractors to donate to political campaigns, but ethics watchdogs said the timing of the donations gave the appearance of a thank-you.
Ash Wright, Bush’s campaign political adviser, did not respond to the American-Statesman’s request for comment but told the Tribune that it was “fake news” to tie the donations to the contract.
Brittany Eck, General Land Office spokeswoman, said Bush had no involvement in choosing Horne, an accounting firm, as the vendor. Three senior land office officials who will work with the vendor had chosen Horne through a procurement process that Eck said followed federal standards. The vendor was chosen based on cost, experience and proposal of how duties would be carried out, she said.
“Commissioner Bush did not participate in the scoring process, nor did he sign the contract,” Eck said.
Patterson, who previously served three terms as land commissioner, said his latest campaign filing, due Monday, will show that he had about $100,000 in campaign contributions during the first three weeks of January.
Bush’s latest campaign filing hadn’t been posted by press time. As of Dec. 31, Bush had $3.4 million in his campaign coffers.
Patterson said his criticism of Bush has less to do with the campaign money Bush received from Horne executives and more to do with what he considers Bush’s poor handling of Hurricane Harvey relief. Patterson said in December that the land office under Bush’s watch had repaired only two homes, which PolitiFact Texas ruled Mostly True. However, the fact-checking news organization also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency shares some of the blame for the slow response and suggested additional homes were poised to qualify for or get repairs later.
Patterson has also criticized Bush’s oversight of a $450 million project to renovate the area surrounding the Alamo, which Bush has defended.
“It ain’t about the money. It’s about failure to perform,” Patterson said.