County Out Over $1.2 Million on Vaccine Contract 

Over $500,000 Paid to Democratic Campaign Data Firms

You may recall that earlier this year, I wrote how the County had rushed to pay out over $1.4 million on the now infamous COVID vaccine contract shortly after it was awarded. When the contract was abruptly terminated, the County Attorney’s Office told Commissioners’ Court it would be working to recover the funds. That was over a year ago.

Greg Groogan recently asked the County Attorney’s Office for a progress report on the recovery efforts. In an email response, the County Attorney’s Office told Groogan that it had recovered approximately $600,000. Of the remaining $800,000, the County Attorney said that about $500,000 had been spent on “nonrefundable, nontransferable licenses” and that they were still “communicating with Elevate’s lawyers to better understand other amounts invoiced to the county and to determine whether those amounts are recoverable.” Following the County Attorney’s math, the “other amounts” would be about $300,000.

Groogan followed up with an Open Records request for documents that would back up what the County Attorney’s had told him. I suspect you will not be surprised to know that the County Attorney’s Office suddenly clammed up. Instead of providing the documents Groogan requested, they raised the possibility that the documents were not subject to the Open Records Act and requested a Texas Attorney General’s opinion.

However, I was able to obtain some documents through the County Auditor’s Office which told a very different story from the County Attorney's email. The Auditor’s office confirmed that Elevate was indeed paid $1.425 million within weeks of the contract being awarded. However, only $208,000 of those payments have been returned by Elevate, not the $600,000 claimed by the County Attorney. As a result, the County is still out over $1.2 million on a contract for which I can find no evidence that a single person was ever contacted about getting vaccinated.

Source: Harris County Auditor's Office

But it gets worse.

In Elevate’s Invoice No. 0126 it charged the County $539,000 for software licenses from three software companies, to wit:

Civis Analytics, Inc. - $365,093

Here is Politico’s description of Civis Analytics:

“Civis Analytics, a data analytics firm that grew out of Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, worked with Joe Biden’s campaign as well as most of his major Democratic rivals in the primary. One of the firm’s top offerings was . . . a central repository for all the data campaigns collect. The tool ported in information . . . used by campaigns, matched identifying information in different formats into single voter records.” (Emphasis added.)

Axios wrote in a recent story that “Civis Analytics, a startup that could be key to next fall's Democratic party campaigns . . .”

NGP VAN EveryAction & OutreachCircle - $172,964

This is NGPVAN’s description of their company on their website:

“NGP VAN is the leading technology provider to Democratic and progressive campaigns and organizations, as well as nonprofits, municipalities, and other groups, offering clients an integrated platform of the best fundraising, compliance, field, organizing, digital, and social networking products.” (Emphasis added.)

OutreachCircle was recently acquired by another company, Political Data, Inc. This is Political Data’s description of the acquisition on their website:

“Political Data, Inc. (PDI) announced today it has acquired OutreachCircle, a leading supporter management and relational organizing platform. The acquisition will offer . . . clients an industry-leading product that combines top-notch data, voter file management and targeting expertise with cutting edge digital services and grassroots organizing tools and platforms.” (Emphasis added.)

These are, presumably, the “nonrefundable, nontransferable licenses” to which the County Attorney’s Office was referring. I did not find anything on any of these firms’ websites that indicated they had any experience in public health.

By the way, according to the County Auditor’s payment website, Civis Analytics has also been paid an additional $460,000 directly by the County since Hidalgo was elected.

So, to summarize, since Hidalgo became County Judge, Harris County taxpayers have paid, either directly or indirectly, over $1 million to firms that specialize in providing data services to Democratic campaigns. According to the County Auditor’s website the County never did any business with any of these firms before Hidalgo was elected.

Let me remind everyone of one of the text messages obtained by the Texas Rangers between Hidalgo’s staff members regarding the award of this contract. In responding to another staff member questioning why Hidalgo had changed the scope of work, her chief of staff wrote:

Probably good for campaign purposes in her mind, but anyway, if she has some intricate picture in her head, I say F it and let her define it . . .” (Emphasis added.)

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from all of this, but it certainly helps explain why Hidalgo is so concerned about being indicted after the election.

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