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Regulators fine Texas ag chief Sid Miller for sloppy accounting

The Texas Ethics Commission fined Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller a total of $2,750 to resolve two complaints accusing him of improper campaign accounting.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller in his office in Austin, Sept. 14, 2016.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include a response from Miller's campaign spokesman. 

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has been sanctioned for sloppily reporting campaign finances during his 2014 run for office.

The Texas Ethics Commission fined the Republican a total of $2,750 to resolve two complaints accusing him of improper accounting, according to orders issued Thursday.

The commission penalized Miller $2,500 for violations in reporting political contributions and expenditures shortly before his May 2014 primary runoff election victory against Tommy Merritt — when he disclosed maintaining about $19,300 in his campaign account while his bank account showed more than $53,300 on hand.

The commission also fined Miller $250 for accounting flubs on his January 2013 campaign finance report. 

Todd Smith, Miller's campaign spokesman, called the commission's investigation "nothing more than a politically motivated witch hunt," and he blasted the ethics commission for focusing on "very minor technical issues."

“We believe that this was a two-and-a-half-year waste of time – of taxpayer money and resources - to investigate what where politically motivated complaints," Smith said Saturday. “This is one additional example of why the Texas Ethics Commission should be renamed the Texas Compliance Commission.”

Mark McCaig, a Katy attorney who volunteered for Merritt’s campaign for agriculture commissioner, filed the complaints, which took years to resolve. Frustrated with the commission's lag time in resolving the issues, he had withdrawn the complaints, but the commission continued its investigation. McCaig also accused Miller of improperly profiting off a campaign loan, but the ethics commission dismissed that complaint last December. 

Miller has faced other financial questions while in office. Progress Texas, a liberal advocacy group, formally complained to the Texas Ethics Commission last year that Miller misused campaign funds for two trips that involved personal activities — including an appearance in a Mississippi rodeo and the receipt of a medical injection in Oklahoma called the “Jesus Shot.”

That complaint is pending. Travis County prosecutors investigated allegations that Miller used taxpayer funds on those trips, but decided not to pursue charges.

Miller has called Progress Texas’ complaints “harassment,” and said “there’s nothing absolutely illegal or wrong with either of those trips."

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