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Agriculture commissioner Sid Miller faces authorized and moral questions in reelection bid – Texas Public Radio


The Agriculture Commissioner has a broad vary of obligations, together with points associated to farming and ranching, rural well being care and even public faculty cafeterias.

However in 2019, the commissioner took on an extra job: overseeing the licensing for the brand new business of hemp.

Two-term Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller starred in a video his division made explaining the nice, the dangerous and the ugly about rising hemp. He additionally issued a warning.

“Be looking out for fraud. As normal with any new rising industries, there’s a danger of fraud. And sadly there’s all the time somebody on the market trying to make the most of you,” he mentioned.

However what Miller didn’t say was that “somebody” is likely to be Miller’s personal shut buddy and political guide Todd Smith.

In January 2022, Smith was indicted on felony expenses of theft and business bribery associated to taking cash in change for state hemp licenses which can be issued by Miller’s Division of Agriculture.

In line with the Travis County district legal professional, Smith and others had been accused of soliciting as much as $150,000 for an “unique” state hemp license. Underneath the regulation, the license is meant to price simply $100.

Smith is now awaiting trial. And Miller is in search of re-election. When he’s requested about his very long time ally’s indictment, Miller dismissed it as politics.

“Nicely, that is a complete political hit job. They do it on a regular basis. They’ve carried out it to me twice,” Miller mentioned in an interview with TPR.

Miller is referring to least two Texas Ranger investigations of him, in addition to complaints to the Texas Ethics Fee, together with improperly utilizing political funds for private journey when Miller attended a Mississippi rodeo in 2015 and one other when he traveled to Oklahoma for a controversial medical process known as a “Jesus Shot.”

Additionally in 2015, Miller employed Smith’s spouse on the Agriculture Division for reportedly $150,000 a yr.

“Nothing’s going to occur to Todd. He did not attempt to promote any hemp licenses. It is a whole arrange, whole hit job. The Democrats, they use no matter means they will,” Miller mentioned.

But it surely was Republicans who introduced up Miller’s moral and authorized troubles throughout the get together’s major. Right here’s what major challenger state Rep. James White mentioned talking to WFAA-TV about Miller.

“We want a present commissioner that’s going to guard and promote this business and we positively don’t want one which has a tradition of incompetence — and corruption — and moral compromises as effectively,” White mentioned.

Boosted by an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, Miller gained the GOP nomination with 59% of the vote. However those self same questions are following Miller into the final election, the place he’s going through rancher and civil rights legal professional Susan Hays, who labored to cross the commercial hemp regulation.

“That challenge with the hemp licenses was the preliminary purpose I wished to run as a result of I used to be engaged on that rollout. I watched it in actual time and had individuals method me saying, ‘, there’s this man on the market telling me I must pay him to get considered one of these licenses. Is that true?’ And I am like, ‘No.’ ” Hays defined.

“We purposely wrote the invoice to make it easy and simple for farmers. And nonetheless Miller and his operation had been on the market grifting,” she mentioned.

Hays additionally identified one other questionable rent Miller made on the Division of Agriculture: Carter Web page.

“Carter’s probably the most clever individuals I’ve ever met. In fact, individuals might know him from the, the Trump marketing campaign,” Miller mentioned.

In 2016, Web page was on then-candidate Trump’s overseas coverage advisory workforce due to his net of shut ties to the Kremlin — so shut that the FBI obtained an FISA warrant to observe his communications with Russia. That led Trump to make false claims concerning the FBI and then-incumbent President Barack Obama.

“The Obama marketing campaign spied on our marketing campaign, they usually’ve been caught. Now let’s see what occurs,” Trump mentioned at a White Home interplay with the press.

An investigation discovered that Trump was by no means the topic of the surveillance. And the Muller Report didn’t set up that Web page coordinated Russia’s efforts to intrude within the 2016 presidential election.

But it surely did present that Web page attended high-level conferences with Russians, although he denied doing so. Web page was not charged with any crimes. Nevertheless final month a federal decide dismissed a lawsuit that Web page introduced in opposition to the FBI and Justice Division for damages stemming from the surveillance.

However Miller sees Web page’s case in a different way.

“They went after him. He mainly represented himself and uncovered the entire Russian collusion hoax. He is, he is the one which, that uncovered that. So, you bought to be fairly good to tackle the Democratic institution and, and expose them at their very own sport,” he mentioned.

By way of a Texas Open Information request, TPR discovered that Web page is being paid $75,000 a yr. Paperwork associated to his hiring present no expertise in agriculture. His background is in oil, which isn’t the purview of the state’s agriculture division.

So why did Miller rent Web page to work on the Texas Division of Agriculture to be his particular assistant? Within the TPR interview, Miller defined: “We’re glad to have him on board. I am honored that he’s my private authorized assistant, and he brings lots to the desk.”

Miller mentioned Web page helps him with coverage. “Something and the whole lot I want — federal coverage, overseas coverage, authorized points. contract paperwork, you title it, the listing is exhausted,” Miller mentioned.

Miller mentioned Web page comes into the Austin workplace day-after-day, and he’s now a Texas resident. A verify of the voter rolls exhibits Web page is now registered to vote in Texas, simply in time for November basic election.


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