A Texas judge is under investigation by the Texas Rangers for allegedly rigging an $11 million pandemic outreach contract so it would be awarded to one of her political allies, a former campaigner for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and data director for the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
On Nov. 9, 2023, the Texas Rangers Public Corruption Investigation Unit announced it had obtained search warrants for documents relative to an investigation it has launched in conjunction with the Harris County District Attorney's Office into Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. The corruption investigation unit accuses Ms. Hidalgo of witness tampering, intent to conceal evidence, and the misuse of emergency authorization powers to bypass the county's contract voting process. They are planning to take their findings to a grand jury.
“Whether it’s the White House or the Harris County Judge’s office, there appears to be an epidemic of corruption among high-level Democrat officials,” Harris County GOP Chairman Cindy Siegel said in a statement about the recently announced investigation into Judge Hidalgo.
According to a Nov. 14 story by Fox 26 in Texas, invoices from the Harris County auditor show that the companies paid out from the $11 million COVID outreach money paid to Elevate Strategies, were all Democratic campaign organizations that focused on outreach to Democratic voters, and had no history of engaging in pandemic-related activity.
Rice University political analyst Mark Jones told the television network that the evidence overwhelmingly shows that the public money was being used as a "camouflage" to maximize Democratic voter turnout by buying voter lists and funding data mining operations.
Ms. Hidalgo already boasts an influential list of Democrats who have stumped for her in the past, including First Lady Jill Biden and "Hamilton" creator and liberal activist Lin Manuel-Miranda.
Prior to the bid-rigging scandal, Ms. Hidalgo was under scrutiny by state Republicans for creating a controversial "threat policy" at the height of the pandemic that included a $1,000 fine and jail time for not wearing a mask. Some of the $11 million in pandemic funds was intended to be used to enforce her policies.
The search warrants, which were obtained by The Epoch Times, show that Ms. Hidalgo is accused of using her position to direct $11 million worth of pandemic outreach money to Elevate Strategies, which is owned by her political ally Felicity Pereyra.
Ms. Pereyra and Elevate Strategies did not respond to inquiries from The Epoch Times.
According to her resume posted on LinkedIn, Ms. Pereyra has worked on a variety of other Democratic campaigns including as the analytics director for Ms. Clinton's Hillary for America campaign in 2016. Her resume shows she was also DNC's director of data between 2017 and 2018, and served as deputy data director for Obama for America campaign in 2012.
Mrs. Hidalgo held a press conference on Nov. 10, the day after the search warrants were served, to deny any wrongdoing. She said she is a victim of "dirty politics" and accused Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg of abusing her office for political reason. Mrs. Hidalgo pointed out that her staffers were indicted during her reelection bid in 2022 and that the search warrants were obtained during Mrs. Ogg's campaign for reelection.
Ms. Hidalgo, who won her reelection bid, has publicly endorsed Mrs. Ogg's Democrat challenger Sean Teare.
"This is the same politics she's been playing for years," Ms. Hidalgo said about Mrs. Ogg. "She's abused the power of her office the way that a bully abuses size on the playground."
Harris County is located in Houston, a liberal stronghold in otherwise heavily Republican Texas. It has voted Democrat for more than a decade.
Mrs. Ogg told KHOU-11 that Judge Hidalgo was using her status to "taint the investigative process and confuse the public."
"County Judge Hidalgo’s outburst today was nothing more than an attempted deflection from the facts and evidence that led to the initial indictment of her staffers," Mrs. Ogg said.
Three of Ms. Hidalgo's senior staffers, including her chief of staff, have already been indicted on felony charges that include record tampering and misuse of official information.
Following their indictment in April 2022, Ms. Hidalgo took a leave of absence, citing "mental health reasons." She returned to the bench last month. Three weeks later, the Texas Rangers announced their investigation.
According to the search warrants, the Texas Rangers believe Ms. Hidalgo edited and/or erased documents relative to the COVID contract and that she failed to turn over correspondence she was initially asked for in the criminal investigation into her staffers.
The search warrants also claim that Ms. Hidalgo sometimes uses encrypted messaging to communicate with her senior-level staff members and that show her staffers used their personal phones to communicate about the vaccine outreach money with Ms. Pereyra.
They also showed that Ms. Hidalgo communicated with Ms. Pereyra about the availability of the $11 million contract before it was publicly announced and that when she believed the county commissioner might not approve the allocation of funds, she used her emergency authorization powers to bypass the voting process and award it to Ms. Pereyra's Elevate Strategies.
As uncovered by Houston blogger Aubrey Taylor, county real estate records show Ms. Pereyra and her husband bought a new home two months after her company was awarded the contract.
Prior to the bid rigging scandal, Ms. Hidalgo also came under public scrutiny for her behavior at the funeral of slain Harris County police officer Cpl. Charles Galloway, who was shot to death during a routine traffic stop on Jan. 23, 2022.
A video taken of Officer Galloway's funeral shows Ms. Hidalgo arguing with several law enforcement officials.
According to Sgt. Roy Guinn of the Harris County Constable's Office, when he and the other officers asked her to take her seat with all the other elected officials in attendance, she refused, saying, "Do you know who I am, I'm the county judge."
Mr. Guinn made a YouTube video of the incident and was interviewed by both TV and radio media about it.
Sgt. Guinn, who accused Judge Hidalgo of deliberately positioning herself in front of media cameras during the entire service "to be seen," said she even refused to move when she was told she was in the way of the honor guard.
A spokesperson for Judge Hidalgo said she would not be commenting on the incident.