If you’re a fan of sketch comedy, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is your boy. He does some hysterical stuff, and lots of it is plenty sketchy.
Miller is in the news (again). He’s being investigated by the Texas Rangers for spending state money for a couple of trips he took in February last year—one to Mississippi to participate in a rodeo and another to Oklahoma for medical treatment probably not covered by his HMO.
Despite the fact he had no official meetings planned for the Mississippi trip, Miller claims it was a justifiable campaign expenditure because he spoke with the Mississippi agriculture commissioner and some donors (whose names he cannot remember).
This explanation sounds just as legit as the one for a trip he took to Oklahoma to get a “Jesus shot” from a convicted felon and ordained minister.
Here’s that story: In February 2015, Miller flew to Oklahoma City to see John Michael “Dr. Mike” Lonergan to get an injection for chronic pain he claims he suffers from his years as a rodeo cowboy.
And this Jesus shot? It’s a legal combination of drugs and vitamin B12 but there’s no evidence to back up Dr. Mike’s claim that it cures all pain for life. It’s also not a diet aid, but one dose will make your wallet about $300 lighter.
As a first-term Republican, Miller stumped as an uncompromising conservative, calling himself a “fiscal hawk.” Once in office, though, the hawk turned into the Tooth Fairy and cranked open the money spigot for his staff. Miller made it rain so hard it’s surprising that no one built an ark.
In nine months, Miller doled out $413,700 to 144 employees—more than his predecessor awarded in his first two and a half years on the job. Most of those bonuses were handed out in September — the same month he announced he was sharply raising fees on farmers, grocery stores and others because his office was short on money.
Miller, who himself looks like a heart attack in a Stetson, has been raising eyebrows since he took office in 2014. In a country battling the twin epidemics of diabetes and childhood obesity, Miller’s first official act was declaring “amnesty” for cupcakes and removing restrictions on deep fryers in the state’s public schools.
But back to the Oklahoma trip. Miller claimed it was to meet with lawmakers, but Sooner solons don’t remember a substantial meeting. In fact, “meeting” is a pretty strong word for what one lawmaker described as a chance encounter and a brief chat in a Capitol hallway.
And Dr. Lonergan? John Michael Lonergan—aka Dr. Mike—is a former federal prison inmate who’s been convicted of tax evasion, mail fraud and healthcare fraud; additionally, the State Medical Board of Ohio revoked his medical license. Dr. Mike is also the only doctor in the U.S.—veterinarians and tree surgeons included—to administer the Jesus shot.
But Miller is adamant, and fiercely denies using taxpayer money for anything other than business. “There’s nothing absolutely illegal or wrong with either of those trips,” he said. Nonetheless, he’s paying the state back.
Addressing questions about one of the trips, Miller spokesperson Lucy Nashed (who has since resigned her post) said Miller will reimburse the state “out of an abundance of caution.” I’d say it’s more like an abundance of “I just talked to my lawyer and I think I fucked up,” but what do I know?