Grand jury indicts top political aide to Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller


A Travis County grand jury indicted a top political aide to Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller on Tuesday on charges of soliciting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from farmers in exchange for state licenses to produce hemp.

Todd Smith, a longtime aide to Miller, was first arrested in May, and he faces charges of theft between $20,000 and $100,000 plus commercial bribery. His bond amount was set at $10,000.

The indictment comes as Miller faces a heated primary, with two of his Republican opponents — state Rep. James White and economics professor and rancher Carey Counsil — criticizing Miller for his past trouble with the Texas Ethics Commission and for the criminal charges looming over Smith.

Earlier this month, Miller brushed aside the allegations against Smith and confirmed that Smith remained a member of his team.

“It happens every election. They know they’re not going to get you on anything, but the process is the penalty. All they need is a headline: Sid Miller’s political consultant under investigation for selling hemp licenses,” Miller said in an interview earlier this month. “Well, they brought him in for questioning. They said OK, this was 8 months ago, they said we’re not filing charges and we’re not indicting you, so end of the story, folks, move on. But they got the headlines, so they bring up that old crap.”

Under Texas law governing the hemp industry, licenses are supposed to cost $100. But Smith was accused of soliciting tens of thousands in cash from prospective applicants for himself and for political purposes.

“We are disappointed that the Travis County District Attorney has obtained an indictment against Todd Smith. He was not invited to address the grand jury. He is not guilty of these charges and intends to vigorously defend himself against the allegations made by the Travis County District Attorney’s Office,” Smith’s attorney Sam Bassett wrote in an email.

Miller declined to comment Tuesday night.

In a statement to the Texas Tribune, Travis County District Attorney José Garza said: “We are holding accountable powerful actors who abuse the system and break the law. Our community needs to know that no one is above the law and will face justice.”

Miller is running for a third term as agriculture commissioner. He’s known as an early and avid supporter of Donald Trump and for his popular Facebook page with 842,000 followers where he posts conservative memes and has been known to spread conspiracy theories, such as promoting the idea that the 2020 election was stolen.

He and his staff have been the subject of at least two Texas Rangers investigations, as well as a handful of complaints to the Texas Ethics Commission, including one into improperly using political funds for personal travel when Miller attended a Mississippi rodeo in 2015 and another when he traveled to Oklahoma to receive a “Jesus shot.”

Miller also hired Smith’s wife to a high-paying job in the department in 2015.

“We're finding out that Sid Miller's campaign team has been meeting in the back alleys behind the Texas Department of Agriculture, taking bribes in and swindles from poor farmers and ranchers and entrepreneurs that are trying to get their business started,” said White, Miller’s primary foe, in a radio interview earlier this month.

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