A candidate for the Texas House this week invited, and then awkwardly uninvited, state lawmakers to a polo event amid ethical questions surrounding the offer, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.
Kyle Biedermann, the Republican candidate for state House District 73, this week offered four free tickets each to the Victory Cup Boots and Pearls Polo Match and alcohol tasting to several state lawmakers and their staff as a way to get to know one another. The tickets were valued at $100 each.
Days later, Biedermann followed up with another letter, slipped under legislators’ doors at the Capitol, rescinding the free tickets amid ethical questions, sources said.
Biedermann did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story. But it appears he may have withdrawn his invitation — and the free tickets — because they fell into an ethical gray area, possibly requiring lawmakers to disclose the gift under state law. Biedermann is not a registered lobbyist.
“Unfortunately you were provided with 4 tickets which were not intended for your office,” the follow-up letter, which was obtained by The Texas Tribune, said.
Biedermann and the polo event share a common connection in Black Stone Texas, a political consulting and marketing firm based in Austin.
Biedermann hired Black Stone to “provide comprehensive campaign services,” according to the firm’s website. According to tickets to the Victory Cup Boots and Pearls Polo Match, the event is presented by Black Stone.
Greg Ball, the chief executive of Black Stone, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
In his original letter, Biedermann said he was hosting the polo event in Manor, near Austin, which bills itself as “the best party in Texas!”
“Please join me, as my guest,” Biedermann’s original invitation says. “It would be great to meet you in person!”
In his correspondence, Biedermann refers to himself as a "State Representative Elect" for House District 73, which includes New Braunfels and the counties north of San Antonio. Biedermann has not yet won his general election but is running unopposed. The invitations were printed on letterhead that identified Biedermann as "Texas State Representative."
Texas election code prohibits candidates from "knowingly" representing themselves in campaign materials as holding public office if they are not currently elected.
State law may have required the letterhead to include the word "for" between Biedermann and Texas State Representative. It is a misdemeanor for campaign communication to include "the public office sought but ... not include the word 'for' in a type size that is at least one-half the type size used for the name of the office to clarify that the candidate does not hold that office," according to the election code.
Biedermann beat incumbent state Rep. Doug Miller of New Braunfels in the Republican primary.
Though he withdrew the free tickets, Biedermann nonetheless asked lawmakers to consider attending the event on their own because it “has raised tens of thousands of dollars for charity in the last year,” the follow-up letter said.
This is not the first time a charity event touted by Biedermann has drawn scrutiny. During his primary campaign, a photo from 2008 surfaced showing Biedermann dressed as “gay Hitler.” He told the San Antonio Express-News the costume was for a Saturday Night Live-themed party benefiting a food pantry. In the photo, Biedermann is seen wearing a swastika and pink sash while making a Nazi salute.
Read more about ethics laws in Texas:
- Regulators are deciding how much lobby wining and dining Texas lawmakers can accept without revealing their names. Hint: It's a lot.
- The Texas Ethics Commission weighs in on a lot of tricky cases involving how lawmakers use their campaign accounts. Take our test: Given these situations, what do you think they can get away with?