Corruption in high places is a common theme in politics. 2021 has seen its fair share of corruption accusations, and many cases involve high-ranking politicians from multiple states.
Behind all the hot topics of the year – from immigration and the border to the pandemic and inflation – there’s always the potential for rotten eggs in positions of power. That never seems to change.
Now, a couple Texas Democrats are the latest to face serious allegations of possible corruption.
This is especially concerning because it pertains to two of the highest-profile officials in the state: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
Both are facing similar accusations involving millions in government contracts, which might’ve gone to “politically connected individuals.” Handing out money for the sake of political gain is nothing new, either.
But these cases seem to be even more far-reaching than expected.
In Hidalgo’s case, she awarded an $11 million vaccine outreach contract to a company called Elevate Strategies. This is run by a Democratic insider with ties to the county commissioners court.
Elevate Strategies was a one-woman operation until just recently, and had only existed for 2 years before getting the contract.
Industry experts and county officials have a big problem with this, as reported by Fox News affiliate FOX 26:
…Elevate Strategies did not even meet the basic requirements to engage in an endeavor of this scope.
Additionally, the experts and officials said that there was no way that Elevate Strategies could have met the strict financial requirements for bidding on county contracts.
For such a contract, Harris County typically asks for annual billing records that go back 5 years, along with an audited income statement and qualifying balance sheet.
However, Elevate Strategies apparently couldn’t provide any of this. And it’s believed it only got the contract because of Hidalgo’s connection to the company’s founder, Felicity Pereyra.
For Mayor Turner, he’s accused of corruption by former Houston Housing and Community Development Director Tom McCasland.
McCasland claims Turner gave a $15 million housing contract to a “co-developer” firm called the Harbor Venture Group. The issue here is that this group is run by Barry Barnes, Turner’s former law partner.
So, this might just be another case of politicians helping their buddies out, even when it’s not the best decision.
There are even reports that the Houston mayor went against staff recommendations in giving that $15M contract to the group run by his former partner.
On top of that, McCasland was fired the same day the accusations broke, so that’s somewhat suspicious as well. In the end, the entire project was canceled because Mayor Turner called it “too much of a distraction.”
But that won’t save him from the investigation now, which is ongoing.
Defense lawyer and adjunct professor at the University of Houston School of Law, Carmen Roe, told Fox News that in fact, subpoenas for Turner “are likely” coming and added this about Hidalgo:
What we do know is: very suspicious, highly irregular and could lead to criminal charges.
Roe also said that in both cases, we’re looking at first-degree felonies with values over $300,000. This translates to a potential punishment range of 5 years to life in prison.
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Lastly, the professor said it’s tough for people to realize that “two of our most significant political leaders here in the city of Houston could be charged with such serious charges.”
Houston City Councilman Michael Kubosh said he thinks “it’s a twisted agenda,” and the two accused individuals have “stretched out their power to do everything they can to maximize their agenda.”
For their part, both Turner and Hidalgo say they’re innocent.
Obviously, they’re going to fight the charges but for the time being, the entire state of Texas is still reeling from these accusations.