Image: Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough’s Campaign Finance Report, of which the image is only the first page, filed on January 18, 2022, reveals how corruption and vendor favoritism have overwhelmed the man who had promised he’d come into office as a “reformer.”
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, January 24 – A river of vendor and outside-of-county money illustrates the corruption of Mark Keough, who ran in 2018 as a “reformer” of Texas’ “most corrupt county” and instead has become a part of the corruption. Keough regularly acquiesces with all spending proposals that Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley and Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts bring before the Commissioners Court.
During the second six months of 2021, Keough raised $53,740 in contributions of which $32,800, or 61.03%, came from outside of Montgomery County. Keough’s Campaign Finance Report, filed on January 18, 2022, reveals a financial picture of a candidate under the control of interests far askew from those of the citizens of this community.
The two largest contributors to Keough are the Austin-based Texas Association of Realtors Political Action Committee, which supports rapid development of Montgomery County, and Bob Smith, the owner of GeoScience Engineering & Testing, Inc., a county government vendor.
Even among the local contributors to Keough, individuals with a strong interest in higher taxes and more real estate development count among his biggest contributors. On December 2, 2021, Keough received a $5,000 contribution from Robert Marling, the Chief Executive Office of Woodforest Financial Group. On July 9, 2021, Keough received $2,500 from The Blair Law Firm, which lobbies the County government to raise taxes and which acts as the primary tax collector for the County government in litigation against Montgomery County citizens.
In his 2018 “Contract with Montgomery County,” Keough promised “I will immediately end the influence that outside interests have upon the decision-making ability of those who govern and will replace this practice with what is the will of the people of Montgomery County.” The primary means by which those outside interests effect the decision-making ability of the Commissioners Court in awarding government contracts is through political contributions. Engineering firms, in particular, exercise vast influence over the Commissioners Court, even though they’re not at all responsible to the will of the people of Montgomery County.
Keough has failed to fulfill his commitment to “the will of the people.” In fact, in the proposed ethics code of the Montgomery County Ethics Commission, most of whom the Commissioners Court appointed, there is no mention of those outside interests, campaign contributions by current county vendors, contributions by prospective county vendors, or the award of county government contracts to firms whose principals have made such political contributions.
Keough’s donation to Governor Greg Abbott
On March 27, 2020, Keough unilaterally issued a mandate (1) shutting down local churches, (2) shutting down local businesses, (3) imposing a curfew, and (4) ordering residents to “stay-at-home.” The mandates were illegal, had no authority from the Commissioners Court, and were, in Keough’s claims, in response to information he received from the Montgomery County Public Health District (MCPHD) with dire predictions of the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths coming to Montgomery County. Keough didn’t mention to the public that he is Chairman of the Board of the MCPHD, so that, in actuality, Keough received the bad information from himself.
Keough threatened churches, businesses, and residents with criminal penalties – incarceration and fines – if they didn’t follow his unilateral orders. Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson and several of the local constables refused to enforce Keough’s orders, because they were illegal and the result of his panicked response.
After Keough saw how unpopular and harmful his orders were, causing a 25% unemployment rate within a few days and ultimately causing many churches and business to shut down forever, he ended his mandate on April 24 but only because Texas Governor Greg Abbott had already issued the same orders (other than the curfew) statewide. Abbott imposed his statewide mandate four days after Keough imposed his illegal Montgomery County mandate. Keough then pivoted to criticizing Abbott for those illegal mandates, in order to try to convince the public that Keough opposed them rather than caused them.
Since April 24, 2020, Keough has claimed that he opposes mandates, although Keough caused the unemployment rate and suicide rate to skyrocket before Abbott gave Keough political cover.
On October 27, 2021, Keough revealed his own hypocrisy by contributing $1,000.00 to Abbott’s campaign for re-election, after Keough had spent many months criticizing Abbott and claiming Keough opposed the very mandates that Keough himself had imposed.
In comparison to Keough, Dr. Billy Graff reported $16,347.00 for the same reporting period. Montgomery Mayor Sara Countryman reported $33,598.48 in contributions. Neither Graff nor Countryman received any political contributions from County government vendors.
Keough didn’t respond to a request for comment about the matters in this story.