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Strayhorn: Audit review a 'political witch hunt'

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

Calling an audit review of her agency a "political witch hunt" orchestrated by Gov. Rick Perry, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn today said a State Auditor's Office review has given both her and her agency a "clean bill of health."

Strayhorn said that Perry, a fellow Republican she is challenging in the governor's race in 2006, used the audit "for his own political purposes," noting the audit report cost Texas taxpayers thousands of dollars and "it found nothing."

Allegations arose after the audit report was released that linked some political campaign contributions to Strayhorn to entities with tax cases handled by her office.

Strayhorn rebuffed those allegations and pointed to the audit report's notation that, "We are not implying any wrongdoing on the part on any individual or group associated with the information in this report." The report also found "no evidence of preferential treatment" of any taxpayer, said Strayhorn, and repeatedly said that the review "did not identify any cases in which the Comptroller's office did not follow its processes."

"I am gratified that after an unprecedented three-year effort to review my office's tax administration process the State Auditor has provided this with agency a clean bill of health," Strayhorn said. "I am committed to the fair and efficient administration of the Texas state tax system. After looking at hundreds of thousands of tax settlements dating back to the beginning of my administration, the State Auditor concluded there was no wrongdoing."

Strayhorn said the audit report established no relationship between political contributions and the broadly defined tax settlements.

The report, however, did recommend the limiting of political contributions to the Comptroller from any individual or entity that represents taxpayers. Strayhorn said she would abide by any rule the Legislature imposed, but suggested that if any such limitations are put on her in the future, they should be applied to all statewide elected officials.

Strayhorn also noted again that she is opposed to transferring the Administrative Law Judges section from her office to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). She said she was opposed to the recommendation when it was considered by the Legislature in past years because of the costs, and because it would "not improve the overall effectiveness of the state tax administration."