Texas AG Teams Up With Houston DA To Crack Down On Corruption

On April 25, 2024, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced that she is handing over Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office the pending criminal cases against 3 of County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s former staffers. These staffers were accused of sending a Wuhan virus contract to a firm, in what appears to be a sweetheart deal.

Ogg lost her re-election campaign in the March Democratic primary to former prosecutor Sean Teare. Nevertheless, she argued that her potential successor cannot be trusted with these cases.

“I will never sit idly by and let public corruption cases be dismissed, swept under the carpet or even allow the rule of law to be overwhelmed by politics,” Ogg said during a press conference with three members of the Texas Attorney General’s Office and the Texas Rangers investigator tasked with the cases.

She called on Paxton to “assume jurisdiction” in the cases, but Paxton’s office announced in a press release that it will help the DA’s office.

Teare’s Republican rival, Dan Simons, congratulated Ogg’s decision and hinted at the former prosecutor concealing potential conflicts of interest. 

Despite her Democratic party affiliation, Ogg received great praise from Republicans for her decision to send over the case to Paxton’s office. State Senator Paul Bettencourt described it as a “welcome development”, while Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey argued that Hidalgo for “politicizing the process of justice.”

The probe in question originates from an $11 million contract the county granted to the consulting firm Elevate Strategies in 2021 to carry out Wuhan virus vaccine outreach. Hidalgo’s staffers at the time— Alex Triantaphyllis, Wallis Nader and Dunn — were members of a five-person panel that analyzed the viability of the bidders. These individuals are accused of sending over the contract to Elevate owner Felicity Pereyra by granting her early access to information concerning the project. 

The county later abrogated the contract as Hidalgo contended that the controversy could hurt vaccine outreach efforts, but the county judge has argued that there was no foul play during the selection process.

A grand jury indicted the former Hidalgo aides back in April 2022 on felony charges of misusing official information and tampering with government documents. Later on in 2022, their attorneys requested that Ogg’s office be disqualified, arguing that the district attorney’s “months-long, highly public feud” with Hidalgo is tantamount to a conflict of interest that made it impossible for her to carry out an unbiased prosecution. 

Texas Republican officials need to start using state power to crack down on corruption.  The time for debate is over. Legislation and state power must be used to clamp down on corruption and reassert the will of conservative voters.

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