'Friends of Victor Leal' accuses Kel Seliger of lying about airplane and relationship with Austin lawyer

A group called Friends of Victor Leal is accusing Texas State Senator Kel Seliger of lying about his use of a private airplane and relationship with Austin based attorney Brian Yarbrough.

"Questions have been raised about Kel Seliger, an airplane, two limited liability companies (one unreported), and a secret relationship with a lobbyist during the 2015 legislative session. What is Seliger hiding from Senate District 31 voters?

"Since 2011, Texas Senate records show that Seliger has received almost $100,000 in reimbursements for personal plane mileage. Although the reimbursements are paid to Seliger, the plane is actually owned by FrogAir LLC. FrogAir is in turn owned by Thetford LLC, which owns 100 percent of FrogAir (Texas Secretary of State).

"Even though it owns FrogAir and Seliger is the sole member, Thetford LLC has never been reported by Seliger on his personal financial statements filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.

"This convoluted corporate scheme is further complicated by Seliger’s secret relationship with an Austin lobbyist. Thetford LLC was formed on April 27, 2015 by Austin lobbyist Brian Yarbrough, who was the organizer and sole company contact for a year (Texas Secretary of State).

"Now, Seliger tries to suggest he didn’t know Yarbrough is a lobbyist. During a recent forum, Seliger said, “I hired a lawyer, who I guess may be a lobbyist” (The Eagle Press, 02/15/2018). He shouldn’t have to guess, because two weeks before Yarbrough formed Thetford LLC, Yarbrough registered in support of a bill in Seliger’s Higher Education Committee, and Seliger read his name into the record (Senate Higher Education, 04/15/2015). Yarbrough appeared before the committee representing Texas Alliance for Patient Access, which paid him between $25,000 and $50,000 according to Ethics Commission records.

"Not only did Yarbrough appear before Seliger’s committee, but his firm – Erben & Yarbrough –donated over $5,000 to Seliger’s campaign including sponsoring several lobby receptions at the Austin Club – an exclusive private club near the Capitol. Yarbrough most recently sponsored an Austin Club reception in November 2016 according to Ethics Commission records.

"By not reporting Thetford LLC on his personal financial statements, Seliger was able to keep his relationship with this Austin lobbyist a secret. Now, he wants to try and suggest he didn’t know Yarbrough was a lobbyist.

"To any normal person, the obvious question is “What’s going on,” because there is a clear appearance of impropriety. Seliger has been in the swamp so long he thought he could get away with this kind of behavior," Friends of Victor Leal said in a press release.

The Texas Ethics Commission said it cannot confirm any ongoing investigations concerning Senator Seliger.

“There is a statue that requires any complaint matters before the commission to be confidential, and that prohibits commissioners or commission staff from even confirming or denying whether any complaint has been filed,” said Ian Steusloff, the commission’s general counsel.

Yarbrough denies having any "common business interest" with Seliger.

“I do not have and never have had any common business interest with Senator Seliger. He is merely my legal client," Yarbrough said in a statement.

Seliger denies the claims by Friends of Victor Leal and said the group is misleading the public.

"This is designed to mislead people. I hired a lawyer down when I was in a wheelchair and I needed some legal help, so I got it and I paid for it. That is not any sort of business arrangement or partnership with a paid lobbyist.

"The disinformation here is what is more significant than the things people are telling the truth about," Seliger said.

Seliger's campaign responded further about the accusations from Friends of Victor Leal.

"Since Leal started running his negative campaign, he has dropped from second to a distant third in the polls. Nobody believes Victor Leal’s negative campaign.

"Seliger spending is one of the lowest in the entire Senate. Seliger is 26th lowest out of 31 Senators.

"Seliger has saved money this way.  American Airlines does not fly scheduled commercial airline flights to places like Dalhart and Lipscomb and Wheeler which might be why Victor Leal rarely if ever visits them," the Seliger campaign said in a statement.

Seliger released the following video denying the claims by Friends of Victor Leal:

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