Besides being the last remaining member of the Bush political dynasty in public office, George P Bush is also the custodian of another bit of history: as Texas Land Commissioner he is responsible for managing the Alamo. Before his March 6th Republican primary Bush described a leaked copy of a highly critical Alamo audit as “doctored.” Now, successfully nominated as the Republican candidate in November, the audit has been published – with the same unfavorable conclusions as before.
Not so doctored then.
Remember the Alamo Trust
George P Bush set up the Alamo Trust to look after the “Cradle of Texas Liberty” in 2014. It was a controversial and unorthodox move: Bush joined the board of the new trust even though it reports to Texas’ General Land Office (GLO). As Texas Land Commissioner, Bush is also the head of the GLO.
An internal audit of the arrangement was leaked to the Austin Statesman, which in turn extensively reported on the issue. According to the Statesman, the Alamo audit was not favorable to the new structure: “The GLO’s use of a nonprofit to manage the Alamo’s day-to-day operations was unduly complicated and sometimes led to practices that run afoul of state requirements.”
Surfacing just a few weeks before the March 6th primary, the story was an ideal campaign issue. His Republican opponent Jerry Patterson slammed Bush, saying, “When is he going to learn, it’s not about looking good for the next election, it’s about doing your job. He still appoints the entire board of directors and has already signed contracts for both contracting parties. What a sham.”
Bush’s reaction to the leaked audit was anything but contrite. Speaking to reporters following the leak he undermined its conclusions. “I can’t really comment on the document,” he said. “I cannot disclose, but we do have evidence that it was a doctored memo.”
Bush spokesperson Brittany Eck simultaneously announced that the Texas Department of Public Safety was investigating the issue because of possible “personally identifying information” being made public improperly.
Although it would have settled the matter conclusively, the official “undoctored” edition of the Alamo audit was kept under wraps in the lead up to the March 6th primary. George P Bush won the four-way Republican nomination contest outright with 58% of the vote.
The Alamo Audit is finally published
The Alamo audit is now available to the public to read, and surprise, surprise it is essentially the same as the “doctored” version that has been under investigation. The damning opening paragraph in each version was word-for-word identical:
“GLO should reconsider the structure and funding model it uses for operating the Alamo. A contractor performs the daily operations, but it uses state resources to do this, as it does not have its own funds or other assets. This is an unusual situation that has created complexity and a lack of clarity regarding the nature and the use of the funds used for Alamo operations. It is also the root cause of several of the observations in this report.”
The response of the Alamo Trust (which Bush is on the board of) is also included in the latest audit version: “Management concurs with the recommendations.”
Writing in the non-profit Texas Tribune, Ross Ramsey gave Bush full credit for his Machiavellian maneuvers:
“The land commissioner’s suggestion that the draft memo was ‘doctored’ temporarily sunk the stories about his management of the Alamo, for the most part, and it did so at a critical time: Less than two weeks later, early voting in the primary elections began…Now that the final audit is out, you can audit the land commissioner’s political spin. Give him an A-plus.”
Bush is now safely through the Republican primary, but the Democratic primary winner Miguel Suazo will do his best to keep the Alamo audit issue alive until November. After the audit was made public he tweeted, “Every Texan should be concerned by the findings of the audit. Bush has operated the Alamo with a complete lack of transparency and in violation of Texas law. It demonstrates that George P. Bush is in over his head, lacks competence to manage our state’s most historic landmark.”
With five months to go before election day, however, the chances of the Alamo audit still being in the headlines when voters head to the polls seems unlikely. Whatever Suazo says, when it comes to political intrigue George P Bush is hardly in over his head.