Has Tech Regent Mickey Long funneled over $1.25M to Texas politicians?
It can be illegal in Texas for an individual to funnel political campaign contributions in the names of other individuals.
But that doesn’t appear to be stopping Texas Tech University System Regent Mickey Long, a major player within the RegentGate Five.
Serious questions have arisen over $1.25 million in contributions made in the names of Long’s two daughters and their husbands.
These questions are warranted based on irregularities within and information provided on contributions, as well as the financial means of the four individuals to make such large contributions.
Moreover, records show that contributions by the four are often for the same exact amount to many of the same campaigns, and within the same period of time.
Records reveal that almost all of the four’s contributions began simultaneously in May 2012, a year prior to Greg Abbott announcing his gubernatorial candidacy. Two months after winning the general election in 2014 election, Gov. Abbott reappointed Long to the board of regents.
The Texans for Greg Abbott campaign has received the bulk of the donations from the four– roughly $850,000. But all of the donations in question are to the campaigns of state candidates and state officials.
According the Tech regents website, Long is still president of Westex/WLP Well Service, L.P., based out of Midland.
Public records state that all four political donors involved in this saga reside in Lubbock. However, every single contribution involved since 2012 discloses a Midland address.
Andrea Long Tirey, an employee of Texas Tech since 2007, has contributed $416,639.67, over 60-percent of which has gone to Texans for Abbott.
Notably, Tirey’s only political contribution prior to 2012 was $17.50 to the Texas Association of Realtors PAC in 2005.
The Texas Ethics Commission, which regulates campaign finance in the state, requires contributors to enter their complete address on contributions. When making a contribution of $500 or more, TEC requires disclosure of “the employer of an individual from whom the candidate or officeholder has accepted contributions.”
In her 51 contributions since 2012, Tirey states Texas Tech as her employer eight times. The rest include occupations like: homemaker, oil and gas, real estate ,and Westex/WLP Well Service.
Moreover, Tirey, who’s 36, has resided in Lubbock since at least 2008.
Christopher Tirey, Andrea’s husband, has made $260,662.66 in contributions, nearly 90-percent of which have gone to Texans for Greg Abbott.
Christopher, who worked for Mickey Long before the couple married, has stated various employers on contributions, like: self-employed, Westex/WLP, and Tango Resources LLP.
Another daughter Amy King has made $335,973 in contributions. Roughly half of her contributions have gone to Texans for Greg Abbott. The 41-year-old provides various employers, such as: N/A, home maker, self, Best Efforts, attorney and WLP Well Services.
Amy’s husband Brad King has contributed $241,611.67, three-quarters of which have gone to Texans for Greg Abbott. Brad, 44, is owner of Clear Vu Auto Glass in Lubbock.
His only campaign contributions prior to 2012 were $750 to Texans for Rick Perry in 2010.
Public records on the matter read more like a regent seat payment plan than they do legitimate contributions.
Between Oct. 1, 2017 and Dec. 5, 2017, campaign donations to Texans for Greg Abbott received $100,000.01 through the following contributions (Note: employer listed on follows the contribution figure):
- Amy King’s three (3) separate contributions for $16,666.67 | homemaker
- Brad King’s contribution of $16,666.67 | Best Efforts
- Andrea Tirey’s contribution of $16,666.67 | Westex/WLP
- Christopher Tirey’s contribution of $16,666.66 | Westex/WLP
On June 30, 2017, the four each gave Texans for Abbott $6,667, totaling $26,668. Employment provided is the same as above.
Between July 17, 2017 and Sept 8, 2017, $124,446 was contributed to Texans for Abbott. Employment provided is the same as above.
- Amy King’s two (2) separate contributions for $17,778
- Brad King’s contribution for $17,778
- Andrea Tirey’s two (2) separate contributions for $17,778
- Chris Tirey’s two (2) separate contributions for $17,777
Between August 20, 2014 and Nov. 20, 2014, Texans for Dan Patrick received the following donations. (Note: Mickey Long’s reappointment by Abbott would go through the Texas Senate, over which Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick presides, the following January.)
- Amy King’s two (2) separate contributions of $5,000 | oil and gas
- Brad King’s two (2) separate contributions of $5,000 | self-employed
- Andrea Tirey’s two (2) separate contributions of $5,000 | oil and gas
- Christopher Tirey’s three (3) separate contributions of $5,000 | Westex/WLP listed once and self-employed twice
If these contributions are being directed by Mickey Long, as they seem to be, they must’ve been taken out of trusts to be above board. But even then, law requires donations be reported as deriving from a trust.
The Lubbockist website, which OSTX readers and listeners will likely enjoy, has previously written on contributions from the Long family. See a helpful timeline chart overviewing donations and events surrounding them.
ETHICS AND AUDITS
The legacy of the TEC is that of a fairly toothless governing body. And ethics in state politics has long proven to be as sparse as snow in Port Aransas. The greatest politician Texas ever produced, Lyndon Johnson, used to quip, “It’s not the job of politicians to go around saying principled things.” The same could be said for the campaigns that get politicians elected.
But even within a notorious Texas political context, a public official like Long has some very difficult questions to answer— the chair of the regents audit committee has accounting to do for matters that go beyond whether or not he’s funneling campaign contributions, and the potential criminal prosecution therein.
In Lubbock, the biggest small town in the world, there are credible rumblings that Vista Bank, at which Long serves as chairman of the board, could incur around $12 million in damages related to the Reagor Dykes Auto Group bankruptcy. And on this account, Regent John Steinmetz, Vista’s CEO, and Regent Chris Huckabee, owner of at least 10,000 Vista shares, could also be impacted.
And in the world’s biggest small region, its apparent Long is liquidating assets like his ranch near Menard and his $2.35 million Lubbock home (Hub City readers might be interested to know the land on which the home was built belonged to Benny Judah). Sources say the liquidation involves an audit that went bad, performed by Occidental Petroleum Corporation, which formerly floor-planned oil field service equipment for Long’s business. There has not yet been legal action filed on public record in this matter.
But back to the question of funneling political contributions: It would likely inflame creditors, as well as any other parties involved in a potential lawsuit stemming from an Oxy-based audit, if, for whatever reason, contributions since 2012 have been made with company assets, in the names of Long’s children and sons-in-law.
Whether or not Long has been funneling campaign contributions is not yet clear. And why he would funnel is also unclear. (I’ve got thoughts for later.)
But what is clear is that there are a lot of donations coming from his family— donations that are as large as they are suspicious.
How and why didn’t Abbott’s campaign, as well as other campaigns, better vet these contributions given so many obvious irregularities? Or did they care? Particularly when it comes to Brad King, from whom Abbott’s campaign accepted 14 contributions, totaling over $176,111, while not knowing him from the Mexican cartel, never verifying his employer (i.e., source of the funds).
But Abbott certainly seemed to care when he disinvited Lubbock developer George McMahan from a campaign event last month. McMahan had dared to state the obvious: that it’s pay-to-play to be appointed to a board of regents or anything else— a claim that has aged well given that Abbott’s campaign has accepted about two-thirds of the $1.26 million overviewed above.
Abbott’s general counsel sent McMahan’s $10,000 check back with a letter, which overviewed a state penal code prohibiting donors benefiting from contributions, and then he continued on in taking a leak on McMahan’s boots and told him it’s raining. The letter concluded:
“Let me be clear: Governor Abbott has not, does not, and will not trade official actions, such as appointments to state boards, in exchange for campaign contributions. Accordingly, the campaign will not accept contributions from you. Enclosed you will find your contribution to the campaign returned.”
The governor may well be clear on a few things. But whether or not his campaign accepted $850,000 in funneled contributions— from family members of an appointed official, in what could be a Class A misdemeanor— isn’t one of them.
Jay Leeson is the founder of Other Side of Texas. You can hear the radio program by the same name each weekday 5-6pm CST on AM 580 Lubbock, streaming at OtherSideofTexas.com. Each episode is posted as a podcast; subscribe at Apple podcasts.
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Click here to read and hear extended interview with Jerry Hodge
Click here to read about Gov. Greg Abbott’s apparent involvement with Tech’s Board of Regents from late 2016 until today
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Click here to read Texas Tech’s #RegentGate and the Questions that Linger: Part 1
Click here to read Texas Tech’s #RegentGate and the Questions that Linger: Part 2