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After federal agents arrested him on bribery charges, former state District Judge Rudy Delgado stopped campaigning for the 13th Court of Appeals — but that didn’t prevent him from spending campaign cash.
From Feb. 2, when FBI agents arrested him, to Oct. 29, when Delgado filed his most recent finance report, he spent more than $22,000.
“If he’s not campaigning, what does he need that stuff for?” said Adrienne Pena-Garza, chairwoman of the Hidalgo County Republican Party.
Delgado couldn’t be reached for comment.
The FBI started investigating Delgado in November 2016, according to the criminal complaint against him. Agents interviewed an attorney who claimed Delgado accepted bribes for “favorable judicial consideration.”
During a sting on Jan. 17, the attorney handed Delgado a white envelope stuffed with $5,500, according to the criminal complaint. FBI agents arrested him two weeks later.
Delgado pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, bribery and obstruction of justice.
While he resigned from the bench, Delgado remained a candidate for the 13th Court of Appeals. He won the Democratic Party primary and faces Republican state District Judge Jaime Tijerina on Nov. 6.
Delgado, though, isn’t campaigning for the 13th Court of Appeals. He stopped making public appearances and didn’t bother with distributing campaign signs.
In a motion filed Sept. 5, attorney Michael McCrum of San Antonio, who represents Delgado, explained the situation.
“Defendant has been advised that the only way another candidate can be listed on the Democratic ballot is if Defendant Delgado was convicted in the instant case or surrendered his law license,” according to the motion.
“Defendant has surrendered his position as a state district judge. He no longer makes public appearances as a candidate. He no longer is actively disseminating campaign materials. The law does not require that he surrender his law license during the pendency of a case, so he has not done so. But regardless, he is not practicing law. Defendant is no longer campaigning for office.”
Delgado didn’t campaign, but he kept spending campaign cash.
On Feb. 6 — four days after federal agents arrested him — Delgado paid $15,000 to Austin-based law firm Minton, Burton, Bassett & Collins, according to campaign finance records.
Under “description,” the campaign finance report explains the expenditure as: “Attorney’s fees for representation before Texas Ethics Commission.”
It remains unclear what matter Delgado had pending before the commission, which handles campaign finance violations. Complaints filed with the commission aren’t public.
Delgado also spent $465.46 at Best Buy on March 22, when he purchased an iPad “for campaign use and reports; 13th Court of Appeals,” according to campaign finance records. He also dropped $100.65 on iPad accessories.
At the time, the Delgado campaign already had a laptop computer, according to records filed with the commission, which requires candidates to disclose all campaign assets worth at least $500.
On July 16, however, Delgado returned to Best Buy. He purchased an iPad Mini for $442.72 and accessories for $80.07, according to campaign finance records.
Under “description,” the campaign finance report includes the same explanation: “to use for campaign reports; 13th Court of Appeals.”
Delgado also spent hundreds on gas, rental cars and meals, including more than $500 at Austin Land & Cattle Company on Feb. 25.
The campaign finance report Delgado filed in July explains the expense as: “Dinner meeting with supporters/contributors to discuss 13th Court of Appeals campaign.”
He spent another $280 at the restaurant in April.
“I was surprised to see he had spent money on the campaign,” said Tijerina, who’s running against Delgado for the 13th Court of Appeals. “Because he had told a federal judge that he wasn’t campaigning.”