We've already had state Sen. Jeff Wentworth label former railroad commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones a clueless puppet (no seriously, a marionette to be exact) steered by shady lobbyists. Meanwhile Jones has hit back accusing Wentworth of serious “ethical lapses” while in office, even employing Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed to lob a not-so-veiled woman-hater bomb Wentworth's way (she says his most recent TV spot works to “belittle all women”). Already one of the state's more heated primary challenges, the GOP race for SD-25 got even nastier Thursday when Wentworth opted to drag his main challenger into court, suing Jones for “defamation of character and reputation, in the form of verbal slander and written and electronically recorded libel.” Wentworth, who has already filed a state ethics complaint against Jones stemming from her time on the Texas Railroad Commission, takes particular issue with Jones' latest radio spot. Among other claims, Jones' ad alleges, “Records indicate Wentworth has billed both the state of Texas and his campaign fund for the same travel expenses, which include gasoline to fuel his Lexus, which he leases with campaign money.” Wentworth, of course, says the allegation's bogus. More importantly, as he says in his court filing Thursday, it implies he's done something criminal. Says Wentworth's suit: “Jones has, in media advertisements, falsely accused Senator Wentworth of what amounts to 'double-dipping' for certain reimbursable expenses incurred in his official business as a member of the Texas Legislature – in essence, the commission of a crime.” Wentworth's got an explanation for the expenses, too. "The procedure followed is that the expenses are advanced in the form of a loan from [Wentworth's] official campaign account," he wrote in his court filing. "Upon receipt of the reimbursement from the state of Texas pursuant to the sworn expense report, the funds are then repaid to the campaign account." Jones' camp doubled down on the accusations late Thursday afternoon, saying they'd file a counterclaim in the case Friday. Jones' emailed statement reads in part: “I will be filing a counterclaim in Bexar County District Court tomorrow because truth is an absolute defense, and my television ads are true. It is undeniable that Senator Wentworth has billed his campaign for travel-related expenses, then been personally 'reimbursed' by the State of Texas for those same travel-related expenses. That is called 'double-dipping.' Senator Wentworth says he repaid his campaign account for the charges he made to it for travel. I call on Senator Wentworth to immediately produce copies of those reimbursement checks for the hundreds of double-dipping instances reflected in his campaign finance reports filed over the past three years. Even if he can show that he reimbursed his campaign account, he still will have proved that he did not report his expenditures properly to the public, as required by law. No matter what, he has had another serious ethical lapse.”
Support Local Journalism.
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the San Antonio Press Club for as little as $5 a month.