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Records show Houston council member Michael Kubosh spent campaign money on birthdays, vacation expenses

Michael Kubosh was in the race for city controller but dropped out just days after KHOU 11 Investigates began asking questions about his campaign finances.

HOUSTON — The announcement that Houston City Council Member Michael Kubosh is dropping out of the race for Houston City Controller comes two days after KHOU 11 Investigates began asking Kubosh about questionable campaign finance expenses.

Kubosh had pledged to be a “budget watchdog” and “fight for transparency at City Hall and its budget” in his bid for city controller. He dropped out of the race Monday for health reasons, days after KHOU told him it reviewed nearly 1,700 pages of his campaign finance reports and cross-referenced those with social media posts made by Kubosh and his family members. 

The analysis reveals thousands of dollars of expenses that appear for personal use, which is not allowed under Texas Ethics Commission rules.

In a February 2022 YouTube post, titled “Mike’s 71st Birthday at Marvino’s Italian Steakhouse,” Kubosh is seen thanking family members for attending his birthday celebration.

“We’re family, don’t ever forget that,” Kubosh said in the video.

His campaign finance report shows a $634.84 “food/beverage expense” at the same steakhouse in the same timeframe.

Another YouTube video in August 2022 is titled “Christopher Kubosh 41st Birthday Celebration” and shows several Kubosh family members singing at a Mexican restaurant.

It too shows up on his campaign finance reports -- a $216.50 food and beverage expense in the same timeframe.

There are also several YouTube videos from a June 2022 family vacation in Wyoming in which Michael Kubosh, his wife Glenda and brother Randall Kubosh attended. KHOU discovered corresponding campaign expenses during the same timeframe as that vacation. 

They include a $420.64 rental car charge and $168 for airport parking. Both items are labeled as “travel in district.”

“It’s a huge problem,” said Anthony Gutierrez, Executive Director of the non-profit watchdog Common Cause Texas

“An officeholder may not use campaign contributions for family, entertainment or recreation, period… That is exactly what Mr. Kubosh seems to be doing.”

KHOU shared with Gutierrez a list of 20 questionable campaign expenses and corresponding social media videos. They include other expenses for family meals, and airport parking charges during out-of-state trips. The items span six years of Kubosh’s nine-year city council tenure and total $7,754.76.

“This is purely entertainment and recreation,” Gutierrez said. “And that’s exactly the thing that ethics commission said you can't do this with your campaign dollars.”

After KHOU asked Michael Kubosh for an explanation, he emailed an affidavit from his brother and campaign treasurer Randall Kubosh. The document states Randall Kubosh “may have inadvertently miscategorized several items” on his brother’s campaign finance reports.

“If this was a mistake by me, it was an accidental oversight on my part and was never intended to mislead or deceive the public trust in my brother whose integrity has been its trademark,” Randall Kubosh said in the affidavit.

But campaign finance attorney Andrew Cates, who has written a book called "Texas Ethics Laws," said a mistake by a campaign treasurer does not shield an office holder or candidate.

“According to the Texas Ethics Commission, according to their rules, it does not make a difference,” Cates said. “The candidate, not the treasurer, is responsible and liable for reporting everything within that campaign.”

Michael Kubosh also provided “corrections affidavits,” he said have been filed with the Houston City Clerk’s Office for every campaign expense KHOU questioned.

The corrections revise categories from things like “food and beverage expenses” to “loan repayments and reimbursements.”

In essence, Michael Kubosh now claims he used personal money he loaned to his own campaign -- not other people’s donations -- to pay for those family meals and vacation-related expenses.

Attorney Cates said in his expert opinion, that is not allowed under Texas Ethics Commission rules.

“The only way that you can get paid back as a candidate for loaning your own campaign money from your personal funds is if you characterize them as such initially in the first report,” Cates said.

Cates said that didn’t happen based on his review of Kubosh campaign finance reports.

“I don’t think that they can go back and claim it after the fact and correct it,” Cates said. “One of the statutes specifically has a subsection that says, ‘this cannot be cured by correcting after the fact.’”

The City of Houston has its own Ethics Commission. KHOU reached one of the seven members Monday who agreed to review the questionable expenses but has not yet received a comment from the commission.

Michael Kubosh initially agreed to interview Monday and then rescheduled it for Tuesday.

Jeremy Rogalski on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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