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Fact-Check: Staples' Claim About Dewhurst's Security 'Mostly True' But Misleading

Jerry Patterson, Dan Patrick, Todd Staples and David Dewhurst at the Jan. 27 Texas Debate at KERA.

Is it true that David Dewhurst is the first lieutenant governor in Texas to have a tax-supported security detail? Journalists with PolitiFact Texas, a fact-checking project, decided to find out after the claim was made by candidate Todd Staples during this week’s GOP lieutenant governor debate at KERA. 

They found the answer isn’t as simple as you might think.

The claim and criticism followed a question about education. Candidate Todd Staples turned to Lt. Governor Dewhurst and said:

“I wish the lieutenant governor was more focused on what we’re spending in public schools rather than being the first lieutenant governor in history to have a personal security detail. I would be more worried about what’s going on in the security of our schools rather than having a personal security detail that drives you from place to place and sweeps rooms before you go in.” 

- Todd Staples, Jan. 27

Gardner Selby with PolitiFact Texas at the Austin American-Statesman wanted to know: Is Dewhurst indeed the first lieutenant governor with a security detail paid for by Texans?  Selby contacted the Texas Department of Public Safety, which confirmed the claim for him and again for KERA.

“We were told by a spokesperson with the Texas Department of Public Safety that Dewhurst was indeed the first lieutenant governor to have a security detail,” Selby said.

But Selby wanted to know more. Why did DPS personnel begin traveling with Dewhurst? Who requested the security?

He found news articles dating back to 2010 when a man opened fire on the south steps of the Texas Capitol. While no one was injured, the incident resulted in ramped up security: restricted driveway access, security gates in the parking garage, and metal detectors at the capitol’s entrances.

Dewhurst confirmed in January of 2011 that DPS was indeed providing an occasional security detail, with a driver and state car.

His staff repeated Friday what Dewhurst said then: He initially resisted security recommended by DPS, but after “credible threats,” Dewhurst agreed.

Selby says he found no evidence Dewhurst initiated the protection, and he believes Staples' claim without clarification could leave the wrong impression.

“Staples, in the debate, did not acknowledge that in those years -- 2010, 2011 -- security was beefed up all over the capitol in various ways," Selby says. "Dewhurst also wasn’t alone, by the way, in gaining a protective detail. [Texas] Attorney General Greg Abbott also got one. “

DPS could not tell us what it costs to equip and pay the lieutenant governor’s security personnel, but says their travel and expenses during three months last fall was about $15,000.  During the same period, taxpayers spent about eight times that much -- nearly $125,000 -- on travel and expenses for Gov. Rick Perry’s security.

Staples’ campaign told PolitiFact Texas and KERA that if Staples were elected lieutenant governor, he would refuse security. 

A Staples spokesman said: “He keeps his protection in his boot."

Read the entire analysis at PolitiFact Texas

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.