El Paso State Senator Jose Rodriguez is the fourth largest spender in the Texas Senate according to the Texas Monitor. The Monitor says Rodriguez is ‘living large’ in a $5,000 a month apartment in Austin and riding around in a leased Lexus that costs $22,000 a year.

The money Rodriguez is spending is campaign surplus money. That is money that was donated to him by people who wanted to see him in office.

The Monitor says Rodriguez spent $110,797 in expenditures from 2015-2016. Other El Paso elected officials spent considerably less than Rodriguez. KTSM says Joe Pickett came in at #23 of 150 reps and Cesar Blanco ranks 57th.

Rodriguez hasn’t bothered to clear up what he meant by ‘Gringolandia’, but he was quick to shoot off an email to explain what his #4 ranking on a ‘Living Large’ index means. Here is what Rodriguez had to say:

This report only makes clear that the bulk of my campaign spending is on items necessary for me to fulfill my responsibilities as a state legislator. Keeping a residence in Austin is simply practical. Being a senator requires that I be in Austin often, and many times, without much forewarning, as I believe this most recent protracted special legislative session makes clear. Notably, unlike many of my colleagues, given the distance between El Paso and Austin, it’s virtually impossible for me to travel back and forth in the same day. The alternative to keeping a market-rate apartment near the Capitol would be to stay in a hotel each time I travel to Austin.

Similarly, I put a lot of miles on my car, not only for travel to and from Austin, but also to travel across the five counties that make up my Senate district, which includes 350 miles of the Texas-Mexico border and extends to Big Bend. These are all legitimate expenses -- not borne by taxpayers -- in service of representing District 29 constituents full-time.

It’s odd that Rodriguez has such a high ranking on the list, but other El Paso representatives are nowhere near him even though they also travel to and from Austin and have to have some place to stay and a car to drive. Perhaps Senator Rodriguez should ask how they do it so inexpensively.

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