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Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s trip to Texas border cost $4,000

by Stephen Simpson | February 22, 2022 at 7:14 a.m.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is shown during a press conference in Little Rock in this March 15, 2021, file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Documents show expenses for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's trip to the Texas border in January totaled more than $4,000, which included food, gas, hotels and reimbursements.

Rutledge told reporters earlier this month that she was joined by 12 other attorneys general for a tour of the U.S. and Mexico border and for a briefing by the Texas Department of Public Safety and other government officials, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a fellow Republican.

Rutledge implored President Joe Biden's administration earlier this month to send assistance to the southern border to address illegal immigration and drug trafficking after making the trip in January.

Documents obtained in response to an Arkansas Freedom of Information request by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette show the cost of the trip was $4,068.89.

Amanda Priest, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office, said one page of the documents was for reimbursement costs and another was for expenses paid for by using the office's credit card.

Documents show that $338.11 was spent on gas getting to McAllen, Texas, and back. Gas prices were around $3 per gallon at the time of the trip.

Reimbursement documents for staff meals, a two-day hotel stay for spokesperson Stephanie Sharp at an Embassy Suites in McAllen, and an Uber ride totaled $845.20.

Receipts showed that most of the meals were from McDonald's, a bistro at the Houston Marriott and a Prime Steak and Seafood restaurant in McAllen.

Rutledge also had a two-night stay at an Embassy Suites that cost $607.20. Documents show the daily cost was $315.10 on Jan. 26 and $292.10 on Jan. 27.

The remaining expenses are hotel stays for what appear to be members of Rutledge's staff. Hotel stops included Sugarland, Texas McAllen, Texas; and Houston. Names on the documents include Jeremiah Terrell, Robert Keefer, Jerry Keefer and Sharp.

Rutledge also attended a rally in Houston by former President Donald Trump during the trip. Documents indicate several staff members stayed in Houston for a couple of days, but no expense report for Rutledge's stay was included among documents released to the Democrat-Gazette.

Rutledge told reporters earlier this month she attended the rally on personal time alongside attorneys general from South Dakota, Texas, Indiana and Missouri.

Documents didn't specify whether staff members were paid for attending the rally or whether they went at all.

Rutledge told reporters previously that some of things she learned from the trip were important for Arkansas.

"It's only 600 miles from the state border of Arkansas," said Rutledge, who has announced her intentions to run this year for lieutenant governor. "It was less than a day's drive to get to McAllen, Texas, for our team."

Rutledge said every day in Arkansas law enforcement members make stops that involve illegal drugs such as fentanyl, opioids and methamphetamine. Rutledge said the drugs are tied to cartels that smuggle illicit drugs across the border into the United States.

The attorney general said human trafficking is also a growing problem along the border.

"The cartels profit $100 million every single week from the trafficking of human beings," Rutledge said.

"Every state in America is a border state, because every state is impacted by the fentanyl and human trafficking funneled through the southern border of the United States by these cartels."

CORRECTION: Amanda Priest is a spokesperson for the Arkansas attorney general’s office. Priest’s last name was misspelled in a previous version of this story.


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