Decider in Church Spat, Judge Alexandra Smoots-Hogan Paid Dad's Defunct Business $52,000 in Campaign Cash

State District Judge Alexandra Smoots-Hogan, who's helping decide the search committee to find the next pastor of Christian Faith Missionary Baptist Church, may not be quite the pristine moral authority parishioners have sought in state court.

Though it's apparently not an outright violation of state campaign ethics, she funneled $52,000 in campaign contributions to her father's defunct business, WBS Consulting, during the 2008 campaign. The expenses were for "campaign consulting" and made out to her father's residential address in southwest Houston. According to campaign literature, Daddy Smoots is a "retired marketing consultant."

It gets worse. Smoots-Hogan's tenure hasn't been devoid of criticism. In 2011, the Houston Bar Association gave her the lowest rating of any civil court judge in Harris County. Today she's locked in what analysts expect will be a rough race against Republican Bud Wiesedeppe for her seat, and William Bernard Smoots is again entangled in the campaign, said local attorney Randall Sorrels. "Her father has a lifelong history of being a political consultant," said Sorrels, who is acting as her spokesman, adding, "It wasn't a significant amount of money."

The Texas Ethics Commission bans expenditures to spouses, children, or businesses a politician would be vested in but doesn't say anything about paying large sums of money to parents.

Hogan-Smoots, of the 164th court, has declined to specify whether she's still cutting massive checks for her father, saying in an e-mail to the Houston Press, "I take allegations of impropriety very seriously." Then, and for reasons unclear, she delegated comments to Sorrels, who wrote a lengthy defense of the judge. For Daddy Smoots, Sorrels wrote, "to come out of retirement to help his daughter and the Democratic party had to be a thrill."

With a $52,000 paycheck, no one's disputing that.

Last week, Smoots-Hogan, as an ancillary judge, was thrown into a dispute among 125 parishioners which spilled from church into court when some in the flock filed suit alleging they didn't get their fair say regarding who will sit on a committee to find the institution's next pastor. The lawsuit requested a temporary restraining order to block a Wednesday vote on who will be the next church pastor.

Smoots-Hogan has asked for a formal hearing next week.

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