Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who now faces two felony indictments and a lawsuit by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, isn't the only Texas politician who's had a rocky first term in statewide elected office.
Take, for instance, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. Along with defending deep-fat fryers in Texas public schools and cracking "jokes" about nuking "the Muslim world," the cowboy-hatted caricature spent some of his first few months as Ag Commissioner begging the legislature to restore cuts to his office he helped implement in the first place. Now, the Texas Rangers have launched a criminal investigation into Miller's use of state funds to take two road trips last year — trips to compete in a Mississippi Rodeo and to get his "Jesus Shot," a supposedly miraculous (and controversial) lifetime cure to chronic pain.
The investigation comes after a series of stories by Houston Chronicle reporter Brian Rosenthal probing Miller’s out of state trips. In March, Rosenthal first reported that Miller’s “Jesus Shot” was the reason for his taxpayer-funded trip to Oklahoma last year (Miller claimed he traveled to tour the Oklahoma National Stockyards and meet with state officials who, according to Rosenthal, “said they did not invite Miller or even expect him in their state that day in February 2015"). Twice, according to the Chron , Miller’s office has withheld emails that undermined his explanation for the trip.
And that’s not all. This past weekend Rosenthal reported that Miller “used a combination of taxpayer money and campaign funds to fly to Mississippi last year to compete in a rodeo for prize money.” According to Rosenthal’s reporting, Miller spent nearly $2,000 in state and campaign funds on the three-day excursion. After a bunch of hard-to-believe explanations out of Miller’s office (like that he’d planned meetings with state agriculture officials that fell through, or that a staffer mistakenly booked it as a business trip), Miller’s communications director abruptly quit this week, citing a “tremendous lack of communication” within the department.
On the heels of Rosenthal's reporting, the liberal advocacy group Progress Texas filed complaints about both trips with the Texas Rangers, who on Wednesday confirmed the investigation into Miller's use of taxpayer money. “The Texas Rangers are conducting a criminal investigation on allegations that Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sidney Miller violated state statutes regarding abuse of official capacity,” DPS spokesman Tom Vinger told the Dallas Morning News. “Once the investigation is completed, it will be referred to the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.”
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While Miller's office says it's cooperating with the investigation, yesterday, before news of the investigation broke, Miller told the Texas Tribune that Progress Texas' complaints amount to "harassment." Unfortunately, Miller isn't the first Texas politician who was voted into statewide office last election who has faced the "harassment" of a criminal investigation by the Texas Rangers.