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Lina Hidalgo Sanctioned for Illegally Misusing Government Resources

Harris County Judge Used Official Press Conference to Attack Political Rival, Boost Soros-Funded Opponent

The Texas Ethics Commission has imposed a $500 penalty on Democratic Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo for violating Texas law by using public funds for political advertising. 

On November 10, 2023, Hidalgo held a press conference in her official capacity as Harris County Judge at the Harris County Administration Building. During the press conference, Hidalgo made numerous comments attacking her political rival, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, as well as comments supportive of Sean Teare, Ogg’s opponent in the Democratic Primary for Harris County District Attorney. 

During the press conference, Hidalgo said she was ready to “take [Ogg] on” in the Democratic Primary, “we’re not going to let a thug run her office in this way,” “I want to endorse Sean Teare,” and “it’s how we fight in politics—at the ballot box!”

The press conference was live-streamed on Hidalgo’s official social media accounts, and a recording was posted afterward. However, after the illegal use of government resources to produce and distribute it was brought to light, the video recording was subsequently scrubbed from Hidalgo’s social media pages. 

In its ruling, the Texas Ethics Commission noted that the press conference was also covered by “at least five Houston media outlets.” Video of the press conference recorded by these media outlets remains available online. 

Teare defeated Ogg by a 75-25 margin in the March Democratic Primary. The Texas Justice & Public Safety PAC, funded by prominent leftist New York donor George Soros, spent over $2 million on efforts to support Teare in the primary. Teare will face Republican nominee Dan Simons in the November general election.

Under Section 255.003 of the Texas Election Code, “An officer or employee of a political subdivision may not knowingly spend or authorize the spending of public funds for political advertising.” A violation of this statute also constitutes a Class A misdemeanor criminal offense. The Texas Ethics Commission only has civil enforcement, and not criminal enforcement, power under the law. A criminal investigation into Hidalgo’s conduct by the Texas Rangers remains ongoing.

The order released by the Texas Ethics Commission discusses how Hidalgo acknowledged that government resources were used to conduct the press conference.

“In response to TEC staff’s written questions, [Hidalgo] confirmed that the press conference was filmed in the public space inside the administration building at 1001 Preston Street, and that six county employees on her executive staff worked to schedule, stage, and produce the press conference. [Hidalgo] swore that approximately two-hours of combined county employee time was used. [Hidalgo] also stated that the area used for the press conference was in a public hallway that was not specially prepared for her alone, and that the area could have been used by anyone going through the lobby entrance on regular business. [Hidalgo] stated that the county office was open to the public during normal business hours, when the press conference was filmed. [Hidalgo] claims that no other county resources were utilized for the press conference, including the subsequent posting of the video recording online.”

The Commission’s order also described how Hidalgo’s conduct violated Texas law. 

“The statements made by [Hidalgo] during the press conference were made in both opposition to Harris County DA Kim Ogg as a public officer and candidate for re-election, and in support of the opponent of Kim Ogg in the March 2024 primary election. Throughout the entire press conference, [Hidalgo] made specific positive comments about the challenger’s qualities and took a strong position in opposition to the incumbent’s character, qualifications, and fitness for office, all of which are indicia of express advocacy. The evidence shows at the beginning of the video, that the press conference was live-streamed to the Internet, recorded, and subsequently posted to YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter/X. 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 [Hidalgo] 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.”

Earlier this year, Ogg announced she had asked the Texas Attorney General’s office to “assume jurisdiction” over cases involving bid-rigging allegations involving three former Hidalgo staff members.  

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