Consultant Arrested Over Hemp License Pay-to-Play Scheme

A political consultant working for the agriculture commissioner of Texas has been arrested for his role in an alleged pay-to-play hemp licensing scheme.

Full story after the jump.

A political consultant to the Texas agriculture commissioner was arrested last week for his alleged role in a scheme to solicit campaign contributions and kickbacks in exchange for hemp licenses, the Texas Tribune reports. Todd Smith is accused of taking $55,000 in the conspiracy and is charged with third-degree felony theft.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit outlined by the Tribune, Smith and others involved allegedly solicited a total of $150,000 to guarantee a hemp cultivation license, including $25,000 upfront for a survey they said was required to get a license in the state. The affidavit says such a survey was “never attempted” by Smith.

Smith’s attorneys, Sam Bassett and Perry Minton, told the Tribune that their client “never guaranteed” anything to anyone with regard to hemp licenses and “never violated any laws and did not steal anything from anyone.” Smith, they said, is a lobbyist who was “paid and performed these very duties” for clients interested in obtaining a hemp license.

Sid Miller, Texas Agriculture Commissioner, told the Tribune that he “had no idea” about the scheme and noted hemp licenses in the state cost $100 for one year.

In one case, Smith is accused of using a middle man to retrieve $30,000 in cash from a prospective hemp farmer in exchange for a guaranteed hemp license. Once the would-be licensee found out he was not at all guaranteed a license, he contacted Smith who denied knowing anything about the $30,000 exchange but admitted to receiving a $5,000 gift from the middle man.

Smith was released on Friday on a personal recognizance bond. Bail was set at $10,000.

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