Ex-congressman secured earmark for defunct resort while in office

Staff Report

The Associated Press

LAJITAS, Texas (AP) - The Texas Transportation Department is sitting on nearly 1.2 million dollars in federal funds the state may never be able to spend.

The Associated Press reports the funding involves an earmark from a now-former congressman who wanted to help a contributor move a road through a golf resort he belonged to.

Former Congressman Henry Bonilla steered the money to Austin in 2005 to move a stretch of highway that cuts directly through a privately owned border town-turned-exclusive resort.

But the resort went bankrupt and the "Lajitas Relief Route" earmark, buried in a massive highway spending bill, can't be used for anything else.

AP reports the owner of the resort, Stephen Smith, donated $2,500 to Bonilla's campaigns, and Bonilla owned a membership in the resort - valued as high as $75,000.

A call to Smith's cell phone couldn't go through. A call to his bankruptcy attorney, Mark Petrocchi, was not immediately returned.

Several attempts to reach Bonilla through his campaign treasurer were unsuccessful.