The top political consultant to Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller was arrested Thursday on allegations that he participated in a scheme to solicit money and campaign contributions for state hemp licenses issued by Miller’s Texas Department of Agriculture.
The consultant, Todd Smith, ultimately took $55,000 as part of the scheme, an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by The Texas Tribune says. Smith and others involved in the scheme are alleged in the warrant to have solicited a total of $150,000 to guarantee a license, including a $25,000 upfront cost for a survey that they said was required to get a license in Texas. Some of the money would also go toward funding unnamed political campaigns, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit alleges that Smith committed third-degree felony theft.
“Todd Smith created by words and his conduct, a false impression of fact that affected the judgment of others in the transactions to obtain a hemp license and/or conduct a survey that was never attempted by Todd Smith,” the affidavit says.
Smith did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Friday morning. Miller told the Tribune on Friday afternoon that he “had no idea” about the alleged scheme.
“That was Todd, between him and his clients,” Miller said, adding that he would reserve judgment until he could learn more about the situation.
Miller noted, however, that hemp licenses are not particularly expensive for those who want them, with farmers having to pay $100 for a one-year license.
Smith’s arrest was part of an ongoing investigation by the Texas Rangers’ Public Integrity Unit, which is responsible for looking into claims of public corruption.
“This matter is being investigated by the Texas Rangers on behalf of the Department of Public Safety in collaboration with the Travis County District Attorney’s office,” Travis Considine, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, said in a statement Friday afternoon. “Our offices will be keeping the community updated as more information becomes available.”
Smith was arrested Thursday and booked into Travis County jail at 9:23 p.m., according to Kristen Dark, a spokesperson for the county sheriff’s office. Smith was released at 2:59 a.m. Friday on a personal recognizance bond. Bail was set at $10,000.
The affidavit says Smith used another person as a middle man between himself and those interested in getting licenses. The affidavit does not provide much information about the middle man other than that he was “introduced to Todd Smith by a friend in August 2019.”