Texas Campaign Scandal: Theft, Impostors, and Alleged Cover-Ups - Rolling Stone
×
×
Home Politics Politics Features

Trump-Endorsed Texas Republican Under Investigation for Stealing Rival’s Campaign Signs

Paul Chabot has had dozens of his campaign signs defaced or stolen. His team suspects his primary rival of foul play — and is accusing his rival’s allies in law enforcement of a massive cover-up

A comic illustration of sign defacementA comic illustration of sign defacement

Illustration by Joe Rodriguez

Image used in illustration: Ira L. Black/Corbis/Getty Images

MCKINNEY, Texas — Frederick Frazier, a veteran Dallas Police officer who landed Trump’s endorsement in a tight primary race for a seat in the Texas state House, has been accused of impersonating a public official as part of a bizarre plot to sabotage the campaign of his opponent. On Tuesday, Rolling Stone confirmed through a response to a public records request that Frazier is under investigation for the alleged scheme — an investigation that his employer, the Dallas Police, did not know about until contacted by Rolling Stone.

“At the request of the Collin County District Attorney’s office, [the Texas Rangers Garland Office] was assigned an investigation for potential criminal violations by Texas State Representative District 61 candidate and former McKinney City Councilman, Frederick Frazier,” the investigation synopsis provided by the Texas Rangers reads. “The alleged criminal violations were of Impersonating a Public Servant and potentially related Theft.”

Frazier did not respond to a request for comment about the investigation, but his campaign manager, Craig Murphy, issued a statement on his behalf regarding the allegations referenced by the Texas Rangers. “It is denied,” Murphy said.

Murphy went on to insist, as Frazier has in the past, that Frazier’s opponent, Paul Chabot, has a history of manufacturing political controversies, and that his claims that Frazier has been passing himself off as a code inspector to con local businesses into removing Chabot’s campaign signs, if not taking them down himself, is just another dirty trick.

Chabot’s campaign, and a bevy of circumstantial evidence that we now know has triggered an investigation into Frazier, suggest otherwise.

The saga began, as it so often goes in American life, when someone wanted to speak to the manager.

Late last fall, a man wearing a McKinney City shirt and driving a white pickup truck approached a local Walmart. He said he was a city employee and wanted to talk to management about the campaign signs of one Paul Chabot, a Republican candidate in the race to be the area’s next representative in Texas’ House of Representatives. Chabot’s signs, according to the Walmart visitor, did not comply with code, and his office needed to be contacted about taking them down.

When Chabot got the call, he was confused, believing his campaign signs to be fully in compliance. He was even more confused after he talked to McKinney City Manager Paul Grimes. According to Grimes, no city employee had visited the Walmart to discuss the signs. Chabot was alarmed, and he grew even more so when other businesses reached out. The businesses said a mysterious “city employee” had visited them too, demanding they reach out to Chabot about “out-of-compliance” campaign material. In a Dec. 1 email to Grimes shared with Rolling Stone, Chabot told the city manager that he suspected something more than a misunderstanding was at play here. Those suspicions were heightened after Chabot signs were stolen at the Walmart. He filed a police report asking local authorities to investigate.

From there, the case has only gotten weirder. Chabot’s campaign is accusing Frazier of a plot to erase his signs, and has requested the police investigate. Asked about the accusations, Frazier seemed to suggest to Rolling Stone that Chabot is pulling a hoax of his own. Local prosecutors have been mysteriously tight-lipped, and any information about what the police found has been thus far impossible to come by. Indeed, what initially seemed a fairly straightforward inquiry has turned into a case that includes recusals, a special prosecutor, and the participation from the Lone Star State’s own Texas Rangers — the law-enforcement arm, not the baseball team. Now, Chabot’s camp says he may be the victim of a broad, politically motivated conspiracy to slow down justice in service of a well-connected rival.

We’ve come a long way from the sign shenanigans at Walmart.

Frazier and Chabot are squaring off in a runoff primary election scheduled for May 24, and — at least before sign-gate escalated — Frazier had the upper hand. In the first round of the primary, he received 42 percent to Chabot’s 37, as the two edged out a third contender to move on to the runoff. Both candidates are multi-decade veterans of law enforcement, but Frazier boasts a long list of endorsements from local law officials. Bigger fish have jumped into the pond too: Frazier’s campaign touts the support of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and — most importantly of all — former president and current Republican kingmaker Donald Trump.

But Chabot’s camp is accusing its fellow law-and-order candidate of breaking the law. Sign stealing is relatively common in political campaigns and not a serious crime, but impersonating a public official is. That’s especially true if the impersonation is coming from one political candidate or campaign at the expense of another.

In total, 75 Chabot signs have been vandalized or stolen since November, and Chabot’s campaign manager says the evidence points to Frazier being involved. “All roads lead to Frazier here,” John Thomas tells Rolling Stone.

Texas House primary candidates Paul Chabot (left) and Frederick Frazier

Tony Gutierrez/AP Images; Courtesy of Ben Chabot

Frazier was reached via his personal cell phone on Friday but did not respond to the request for comment. The next day, when approached for comment at a GOP convention at Collin College in the nearby town of Wylie, he said he would not comment on the allegations. He did, however, have some allegations of his own.

“If you would do your homework, you should look at what happened years and years ago,” Frazier said, before asking that a recording device be switched off. When pressed, Frazier alluded to incidents related to Chabot’s prior campaigns when he was a candidate in California. There, he noted, Chabot’s campaign signs had also been vandalized, and Frazier seemed to suggest that Chabot’s allegations were a part of a pattern. When asked if he was insinuating that Chabot had made false accusations, Frazier demurred.

Shortly after the interview, Frazier took the stage and spoke for two minutes during the convention, but the campaign-sign caper followed him there. The very conservative publication Texas Scorecard had raised the issue, and during Frazier’s speech, some in the crowd heckled him. “You’re a criminal! You’re going to be indicted!” they yelled.

It turns out that Frazier is right that this isn’t the first time Chabot has filed a police report for vandalism of his campaign assets. In 2010, while running for a city council seat in California, the tires of his campaign vehicle were slashed by an unknown suspect. In 2014, Chabot was running in a California congressional primary when his campaign signs were vandalized. Two years later, the suspect in that case was caught. It was a 17-year-old whose name was withheld, and had no connection to another campaign.

“Shame on Mr. Frazier for attempting to re-victimize Mr. Chabot,” Thomas tells Rolling Stone. “We find it deeply concerning and bizarre that a law-enforcement officer would attempt to victim shame. Perhaps Mr. Frazier is trying to confuse voters and cover his tracks.”

Chabot, who filed the police report, has kept close tabs on the investigation, and based on his conversations with law enforcement and public prosecutors, believes this is more than a case of simple sign vandalism. “What we know of the investigation is that this case is not just about sign theft and vandalism, but a more serious crime in Texas: impersonating a public official, and that is a felony,” Chabot told Rolling Stone.

In truth, what Chabot’s camp knows of the investigation is little, as the whole thing has turned mysterious and the bulk of the evidence is being withheld as the case plays out.

Chabot filed a report with the McKinney Police Department in early December. In an email to Grimes, the McKinney city manager, Chabot said he’d previously asked Walmart to turn over the security footage on the day when the city’s faux-ployee visited, but he was told that information could not be shared without a police report. In that email, Chabot also laid out what his camp sees as a key piece of evidence in the case. All of the businesses visited by the impostor called Chabot’s personal cell number, a number that isn’t publicly listed and is different from the one for his campaign. “If this was a single incident, I would likely let it go — however, because ‘the city employee’ gave out my personal cell phone, and the same MO has happened twice before at other locations this week, I felt it worthwhile to escalate,” he wrote to Grimes.

But that was almost four full months ago, and so far Chabot has gotten few answers. In early January, Chabot was told that the McKinney police department had stepped back from the case, which had instead been referred to state law enforcement to investigate. Specifically, Texas Ranger J. Rodney Odom was on the case.

On March 3, Chabot received a call from Odom, during which the ranger said he’d completed the report and sent it to the Collin County district attorney. On March 16, Chabot followed up with the DA to request the report but was denied. On March 24, Chabot got an email from a spokesperson informing him that the DA’s office had recused itself from the investigation and was instead passing it to a special prosecutor — William Ramsay, a DA from a nearby district. When Chabot asked the DA’s office if it had a copy of the police report, it said it hadn’t retained a copy and wouldn’t ask Ramsay for one.

“It would be inappropriate for our office, after recusal, to ask the current prosecution agency to send us copies of their records, so that we could then turn around and assert Public Information Act exceptions or privileges on their behalf,” the spokesperson wrote to Chabot.

A spokesperson with the Texas Rangers confirmed they had completed their investigation and handed over their findings to the Collin County DA. When Rolling Stone asked the Collin County DA about the investigation, it said all questions should be addressed to Ramsay. Reached Friday, Ramsay declined to comment on the case and declined to say whether Frazier was a suspect. He said he couldn’t comment because he “had not looked at a single document.”

Answers about recusals — and about the investigation’s relative opacity in general — have thus far been hard to come by. The McKinney Police Department wouldn’t answer why the case got bumped to the state level. And the Collin County DA has declined to say why it recused in favor of a special prosecutor. Ramsay, the special prosecutor, isn’t talking either.

It’s possible that the whole thing could be the result of the grinding gears of the justice system slowly moving forward. Anyone who has dealt with bureaucracy knows it doesn’t always move at the pace we’d like. But Chabot’s campaign is suggesting another, more sinister possibility.

The union that represents McKinney’s police officers endorsed Frazier over Chabot. The Collin County DA’s office is led by Greg Willis, who also endorsed Frazier in the race. Indeed, even the union that represents the Texas Rangers, the Department of Public Safety Officers Association, gave Frazier its support. Correlation may not imply causation, but the overlap in endorsements and unexplained recusals has raised eyebrows.

Thomas, Chabot’s campaign manager, says something fishy is going on here — particularly because there’s almost certainly video from the fateful day when someone claiming to be a city employee came to Walmart and began this north Texas tempest. Thomas says he’s concerned figures within local law enforcement are slow-rolling the investigation in the hopes that it’ll help Frazier eke out a win in May. “There’s video surveillance footage of these incidents,” Thomas says. “Unless Mr. Frazier adamantly denies being involved and additional facts come to light to drastically prove otherwise — if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, we will call it a duck.”

For his part, Chabot wants answers. “Personally, I have never seen anything like this,” he says. “I spent over 20 years in law enforcement and the same amount of time as a military intelligence officer. This isn’t a murder case. It’s crystal clear. We know that authorities have identified a suspect and are clear on the law violations that took place. The public deserves answers.”

The fact that the Dallas Police didn’t even know one of its own employees is under investigation for these law violations only heightens the sense that something fishy, as Chabot’s campaign manager put it, may be afoot.

When Rolling Stone provided the department with documentation from the Texas Rangers identifying Frazier as the subject of an investigation, a Dallas Police spokesperson said they “had not been notified of any criminal investigation that involves Frazier.”

The spokesperson did note that “when an officer is under investigation they are placed on administrative leave from the department,” while at the same time confirming that Frazier is an active member of the Dallas Police and is not on administrative leave. Frazier, a long-time officer, has been endorsed by the Dallas Police Association in the Texas House primary race.

The department spokesperson wasn’t able to answer an inquiry about whether an officer is required to notify the department if they are under investigation, but directed Rolling Stone to the department’s publicly available general orders, which stipulate that officers have a sworn duty to “notify a supervisor or the Internal Affairs Division” whenever they learn an employee has violated state law. The orders also stipulate that when an officer becomes “the focus of a criminal investigation, or simply has been listed as a suspect in a criminal offense report,” their supervisors have a duty to forward a memorandum outlining the circumstances “to the Commanders of the Internal Affairs Division and Public Integrity Unit without delay.”

The Texas Rangers were assigned the investigation into Frazier on Feb. 4, nearly two months ago. The Dallas Police told Rolling Stone on Tuesday they had no idea.

Brandon Friedman, a member of the Dallas Community Police Oversight Board, expressed concern when presented with the Texas Rangers document and the statement from Dallas Police. “Obviously this officer is innocent until proven guilty, but it’s certainly a serious charge and one we look forward to learning more about,” he told Rolling Stone. “We also intend to get clarification from DPD about whether he’ll be placed on administrative leave during the investigation per the Department’s policy.”

As Chabot said, the public deserves answers. For now, however, they’ll have to keep watching the signs.

In This Article: Republicans, Texas

Newswire

Powered by
Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.