The Elevate Strategies scandal tied to County Judge Lina Hidalgo just keeps mushrooming. For those who missed it, earlier this year, Hidalgo recommended hiring a 1-person company operating out of an apartment to do “COVID outreach” for $11 million. That person reportedly didn’t do any COVID outreach before public outrage about bid rigging forced the County to cancel the contract and seek a refund.
But according to a news report released yesterday, the county rushed payment for Elevate’s initial invoice of $1.4 million. With it, Elevate purchased Democratic campaign software for $538,057.
Now, according to Bill King, the company refuses to give the money back and the County Attorney, a Democrat, is fighting an Open Records request concerning the matter. For a detailed discussion of these allegations, read King’s post in its entirety. A brief summary follows.
County Attorney Fights Open Records Request on Unusual Transactions
After “winning” the lucrative $11 million contract, Elevate immediately invoiced Harris County for more than $1.4 million. The County then rushed to pay her. That’s very unusual in itself. It took Harris County five months just to cut a purchase order for the Atascocita Drainage study after commissioner’s approved that contract!
Greg Groogan of Fox26, who has been investigating this story, asked the County Attorney how he was doing in recovering the money paid to Elevate. But the County Attorney’s accounting just didn’t add up. So, Groogan filed an Open Records request. The County Attorney suddenly clammed up, said the records were not subject to the Open Records Act, and requested an opinion from the Texas Attorney General.
Meanwhile, Bill King did obtain the records – from the County Auditor’s office. Those records showed that of the $1.425 million paid to Elevate, only $208,000 was returned so far. What happened to the missing COVID money?
Where Money Went
The payments include:
- $356,093 to Civis Analytics, Inc., a data firm that grew out of Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and has ties to President Biden.
- $172,964 to NGP Van and OutreachCircle
- NGP Van promotes itself as the “leading technology provider to Democratic and progressive campaigns and organizations.” It also claims “Nearly every Democrat running for office is powered by NGP Van.”
- OutreachCircle boasts about its voter file management, targeting expertise and grassroots organizing capabilities.
- OutreachCircle was recently acquired by Political Data Inc., “California’s largest provider of voter information to political campaigns.”
The County Auditor also shows that Harris County has paid another $460,000 directly to Civis Analytics since Hidalgo was elected.
Under Hidalgo that brings total payments by taxpayers – Republicans and Independents included – for Democratic political organizing capabilities to about $1 million. The County Auditor says the county never did business with any of these firms before Hidalgo.
King concludes his essay with an excerpt from a text message from one of Hidalgo’s staffers. The Texas Rangers obtained it after the scandal first became public.
“Probably good for campaign purposes in her mind, but anyway, if she has some intricate picture in her head, I say F it and let her define it . . .” (Emphasis added.)
As King says, “Draw your own conclusions.”
I say, “…on your way to the polls.”
Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/25/22
1883 Days since Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.