Hodge's district supported her two years ago even after these charges came to light, but now she must drop out of her primary race and will not be back in Austin (and might be in federal prison) in 2011. Last session she sat on the House Corrections and Criminal Jurisprudence Committees, putting her in the center (at least geographically, if not usually rhetorically) of many debates covered on Grits.
State Rep. Terri Hodge provided a dramatic twist to the FBI's public corruption investigation Wednesday by agreeing to resign from the Texas House after pleading guilty to failing to pay taxes on $74,000 in income, including more than $32,000 in bribes.
Hodge, D-Dallas, also admitted that she never paid taxes on another $41,000, some of which was money she pilfered from her own campaign war chest for personal expenses. Neither prosecutors nor Hodge offered details.
The 69-year-old legislator choked up several times during an early-morning hearing that was never publicly scheduled, apparently in an attempt to spare Hodge media attention.
Hodge, who did not comment as she left the courthouse, agreed to drop her re-election bid for an eighth term. But she will remain a House member until she is sentenced.
"I'm not real keen on that notion," U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn said at the prospect of a felon remaining in office for any length of time. She said she would schedule a sentencing hearing soon, but it could still take weeks.
Hodge pleaded guilty to accepting money from prominent developers Brian and Cheryl Potashnik in the form of rent and utility payments. The Potashniks, both of whom have since pleaded guilty to bribery, let her live in one of their affordable housing complexes for reduced rent and also bought her about $2,000 worth of carpet.
As part of her deal plea deal, finalized late Tuesday, Hodge did not admit the bribery conspiracy, which alleges that she wrote letters to the state advocating that the Potashniks' company, Southwest Housing, receive lucrative tax credits to build low-income housing in her Dallas district in return for the bribes. Such support from public officials was crucial for developers getting the tax credits.
At the Lege, Terri Hodge was always a reliable vote for criminal-justice reform bills and a well-intentioned, passionate advocate - especially concerning prison conditions and parole policy. But she could be domineering and combative in a legislative environment that rewards comity and compromise. She wasn't someone who other legislators would typically follow, certainly not across party lines, and thus in the GOP-dominated era post-2002 she became marginalized at the Lege, even as some of her causes started to gain traction.
Though Hodge wasn't convicted of bribery, taking free rent from a developer whose projects she's pimping through the process is overtly corrupt. She disgraced herself and her office. Her loud protestations of innocence - by which she justified sticking around through the 81st legislative session even after she'd been indicted - turned out to be all lies. Terri Hodge leaves behind a legacy of ignominy and shame that casts a pall over the whole political process.
Adding fuel to any well-deserved populist outrage over Hodge's transgressions, the Texas Tribune is reporting that she will still be eligible to receive her state legislative pension of around $40K per year, which is more than a five-fold boost from her annual legislative salary. How's that for bitter irony?
Especially since she wasn't accomplishing much, anyway, it's surely best all around for District 100 to get a new rep, who by the way will be a fellow named Eric Johnson, her primary opponent. The south Dallas seat is a "safe" one for Democrats and there is no GOP candidate.