This week, the Texas Ethics Commission fined Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo after finding she used public funds for political advertising.

The complaint against Hidalgo stemmed from a press conference she held in her official capacity, during which she supported Harris County District Attorney candidate Sean Teare and opposed incumbent DA Kim Ogg.

A copy of the press conference was posted to her official social media accounts and website. The videos were later removed after a complaint was filed with the TEC. 

The TEC determined:

The definition of political advertising includes any communication supporting or opposing a candidate for election or a public officer that appears on an Internet website. See Tex. Elec. Code § 251.001(16). Therefore, the press conference constituted political advertising. Credible evidence shows the respondent used public resources of Harris County for the press conference, held in a county facility at her direction. Therefore, there is credible evidence of violations of Section 255.003(a) of the Election Code. 

She’ll pay a penalty of $500.

Harris County has been beset with public corruption allegations, several of which revolve around Hidalgo. In April this year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was asked to prosecute Hidalgo staff members implicated in an inappropriately awarded $11 million COVID outreach contract by outgoing DA Ogg.

The three Hidalgo staffers were charged with felonies for misusing official information and tampering with a government record to help steer the contract to a Democrat political operative Felicity Pereyra.

WhatsApp messages from former Hidalgo Chief of Staff Joe Madden, obtained via search warrants, suggested her staff knew the dangers of the contract. Ahead of a meeting between Pereyra and Hidalgo before the contract was put out to bid, Madden stated that “when it [the contract] goes to ‘shit’ and she lights her security blanket on fire, it needs to be fully on her.”

In addition to the Ogg-Paxton handoff of the trio of Hidalgo staffers, Ogg announced last week that she indicted three individuals for laundering over $8 million in tax funds from a redevelopment authority. The group allegedly spent the money on “flashy cars, nice houses, super living, trips, and pornography.”

Before the indictments were announced, an auditor’s report found that Harris County had continued a corruption-prone contracting process, including “no selection committee, company evaluation forms, high- or low-score evaluations, and, again, no conflict of interest forms.” Hidalgo vowed to fix the process.

Hidalgo has been in the news this week for ill-politicizing the rape and murder of 12-year-old Houstonian Jocelyn Nungaray, blaming former President Donald Trump for her death at the hands of two illegal aliens.

After she faced questioning on this point, Hidalgo incorrectly stated that President Biden had finalized an agreement with Mitch McConnell on reinstating Trump-era remain-in-Mexico policies, but that Republicans backed out of the deal on Trump’s orders.

Daniel Greer

Daniel Greer is the Director of Innovation for Texas Scorecard.

Sydnie Henry

A born and bred Texan, Sydnie serves as the Managing Editor for Texas Scorecard. She graduated from Patrick Henry College with a B.A. in Government and is utilizing her research and writing skills to spread truth to Texans.