By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
I was able to learn by examining tax records that Denton is now proprietor of a separate for-profit entity called "THPA Services," which is not required to divulge its governance or financial details. THPA Services publishes a magazine and sells advertising for the THPA.
The documents I looked at showed some things about the relationship between THPA Services that I would call curious, even though I know 'tis not the season to be curious.
I am mighty curious, for example, about the fact that in 2006 THPA Services had an income of $1,121,422 but ended the year with only $81,263. And on top of its income, THPA Services benefited from a $637,973 loan from THPA.
Whenever a high-profile police death occurs, these people get on the horn and start asking people for money, supposedly to help the families of the fallen officers. Denton has claimed in some news accounts that THPA has distributed as much as $100,000 to families of fallen officers over five years.
Maybe. The only records I can find show gifts of about $10,000 to a couple families in a year. And I guess, at a rate of $20,000 a year over five years, yeah, that's $100,000.
But in 2008 alone, the most recent year for which I could find federal tax records, the THPA collected $1.74 million in contributions. The same year they spent $1.17 million on salaries and other compensation.
The only two named staff members with salaries that I could find on the books that year drew a combined total of about $350,000 in salary and bonuses—not too shabby. But the records show "other salaries and wages" coming to $798,367.
What other salary and wages? Christmas or no Christmas, I would like to know about the eight hundred large. I call and call. No answer. See, now I'm just not really cheerful. My best efforts are failing me.
Help me with this. Holidays approaching. These people call us up with a Caller ID that says "Texas Highway Patrol something or other" when our kid is on the road. The guy on the phone, the telemarketer who says he is "Trooper Mark Smith," starts out in deliberately scary-bad cop tones.
I realize nobody's perfect, and at this time of year more than ever we should be forgiving. Anybody could be the head of a legitimate organization and then steal $67,000 and then start another organization and then set up a private company that doesn't have to report its income and then not return phone calls. I am completely understanding.
It could have happened to me, but I decided to go into journalism. Funny how one little thing makes a difference.
The Office of the Texas Attorney General has been pretty aggressive in going after badge fraud scammers and has brought indictments against one who ran something called the "Sheriff's Journal." The OAG has looked at the THPS and concluded it operates within the law.
The Better Business Bureaus of Houston and San Antonio have declined to give THPA their recommendation and have criticized it in the past for spending too little money on actual charity, but they stopped issuing a report on THPA a year ago when THPA stopped filling out their questionnaires.
I am not saying they are crooks. I am saying that an awful lot of the money they collect goes to the private entity headed by Lane Denton. And when they call and the Caller ID tells you it's the Texas Highway Patrol something or other calling, it's not the highway patrol. You don't really have to answer, and you don't really have to give them your name.
Here is my point. I'm not even mad at the Texas Highway Patrol Association. Why be mad at them? It's like getting mad when you go inside the tent at the county fair to see the half-alligator half-man and he turns out to be a fake. At some point in life you have to learn not to go in the tent.
I'm not against Christmas. But people use Christmas. I mean, look: People use the blood of dead cops. The world is filled with really good people, but the world is also filled with really bad people.
Like the THPA, Pastor Jeffress is using Christmas. This whole thing with his Joe McCarthy list of known traitors to Christmas is part of building his own personal brand so he can compete with all the other Christian televangelist tycoons.
All right, I admit it. The spirit has left me. Slap the cuffs on me, haul me away to the Christmas Calaboose. Maybe I can get away from carols sung by mice and find somebody to play poker with. In peace and goodwill.