Ray Myers was hoping to bring grassroots sensibility to the “Re-Imagined Alamo” project when he reached out, last April, to Land Commissioner George P. Bush. Instead, he discovered that in order to have a say on what becomes of the Shrine of Texas Liberty, you have to cough up a quarter of a million dollars.
A well known conservative activist, Myers hoped to become a member of the board of the Alamo Endowment, which currently is composed of ten exclusive members who, to the knowledge of Alamo CEO Douglass McDonald, were not asked to make up-front contributions.
“I personally spoke to [Bush] in April. I expressed my concerns about the ‘Reimagine’ plan and specifically asked why there weren’t any grassroots Texans on his planning committee. He responded that there should be additional Texans on the committee and promised to get back to me the following day.”
On April 28, Myers received a phone call from Bush’s political director Ash Wright, who offered a position on the board with the caveat that he pay out 250 large.
Myers was emphatic. “‘The conversation is over.'”
The current goal is to raise approximately $500K from private donations, though $106 million has been set aside for Alamo-related projects by the Texas Legislature during the 2015 and 2017 sessions. Sadly, some of this came from the Rainy Day Fund. Unfortunately, there is no good way for the public to determine how these dollars will be spent.
Kelly Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, characterized the problem. “‘One of our biggest worries is what is yet to come.'” “‘We feel there is an increasing incentive for governments to put money into nonprofits where there is less or no transparency and accountability. If we’re talking about government services and taxpayer money, the public has a right to know how its money is being spent.'”
Richard Range agrees that the situation is murky at best. “[Bush] is in effect signing contracts with himself, which is illegal and unethical….What we’re seeing is a slush fund that’s designed to make a lot of rich people richer.”