By PAUL J. WEBER Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick on Tuesday offered up to $1 million in defense of President Donald Trump’s unsupported claims of irregularities in the U.S. presidential election, saying he would pay out rewards for information that leads to voter fraud arrests and convictions.
The money put up by Texas’ second-in-command appeared to be a first among Republican officeholders who are backing Trump as he refuses to concede. A former chief Texas ethics regulator said paying out reward money, which would come from Patrick’s political campaign, could run afoul of federal campaign finance laws. A Patrick spokeswoman pushed back on that suggestion.
There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. In fact, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.
“I support President Trump’s efforts to identify voter fraud in the presidential election and his commitment to making sure that every legal vote is counted and every illegal vote is disqualified,” Patrick said in a statement, which offered no evidence that fraud had occurred.
Jim Clancy, former chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission, said handing out large sums of reward money may be improper if it’s being used to help prove Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud.
“You could argue that this is an in-kind contribution to the Donald Trump campaign. That’s his problem,” Clancy said.
Patrick spokeswoman Sherry Sylvester said the offer was about voter fraud “regardless of the outcome of the election” — which Trump has lost — and restoring public confidence the electoral process.
Most Republicans are refusing to congratulate Biden or declining to push Trump to accept the outcome, even though there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Over the weekend, Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, another Trump ally, launched a fundraising campaign to “help us bring it home for the president” but it appears the donations are set to flow into her own reelection account.