Todd Rokita’s border investigation included a ‘border casual’ dress code, a flat tire and a fancy steakhouse

Rokita said he was going to the border to investigate the effects illegal immigration has on...
Rokita said he was going to the border to investigate the effects illegal immigration has on Indiana. He met with 11 other Republican attorneys general and appeared on Fox Business with Maria Bartiromo.
Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 9:31 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Indiana’s attorney general Todd Rokita had a packed schedule during his January trip to investigate undocumented immigration across the southern border in McAllen, Texas. He also made time for an appearance on Fox Business and a nice dinner at a steakhouse.

That’s what ABC21 learned after reviewing an itinerary and receipts we requested in January. It took weeks for Rokita’s office to compile them. The trip cost taxpayers about $2,000. Critics have protested Rokita’s use of taxpayer funds to visit the border, an issue they consider to be mostly federal and outside the scope of a state attorney general’s purview.

Thursday’s events

Rokita’s Texas visit began on Thursday, January 27. Rokita joined a group of 11 other Republican attorneys general for a visit to a stretch of the southern border. The first day began with a noon “border crisis briefing.” According to the itinerary, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ted Paxton, state police officials, and personnel from Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement were part of the briefing. The group ate lunch.

The group departed for the border wall tour around 5:00 pm. Rokita and the other AG’s were asked by Paxton to wear what was described as “border casual” attire. That included the option of jeans or chinos with a branded button-down shirt, a polo shirt or a fishing shirt. The itinerary stated that media would be present throughout the trip. Indeed cameras rolled, photographers snapped pictures and the group tweeted about their tour of a finished section of border wall, construction of which has been halted since 2021.

After the wall visit, presumably still adorned in border casual attire, the group traveled into McAllen to a restaurant called patio on Guerra. It’s an upscale restaurant with $16 ceviche and $45-$110 steaks. Rokita’s press office was quick to point out that Rokita did not use his per diem allowance on this meal. After the meal, the group traveled back to their hotels.

Friday’s events

Friday brought another round of tours and appearances on cable news. It was an early wake-up call for Rokita who appeared on Maria Bartiromo’s program on Fox Business that morning. That portion of the trip was scheduled from 5:30 am to 7:30 am. Rokita also announced that he was joining a multi-state lawsuit against the Biden Administration.

The lawsuit aims to shut down a federal program known as the Central American Minors Refugee and Parole Program. It allows qualifying children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua to apply for refugee status in the United States. They must have a parent or family member who is a legal resident of the United States to qualify. The case is working its way through the courts.

After the interview, Rokita was to meet the group at state police boat docks by 9:00 am for a tour of the Rio Grande River. But this is where the trip went awry.

According to receipts, Rokita’s state vehicle, a 2014 Ford Explore with 107,475 miles incurred a flat tire. Rokita’s driver and security minder Tim Ritchie took the car to a Firestone garage for a fix around 7:15 am. That cost $222.83. Taxpayers paid that bill.

Rokita made it to the boat docks, where he could be seen wearing a tactical-style vest while eyeing a machine gun mounted on the police boat. Some undocumented immigrants cross into the US through the Rio Grande, and this section of river is heavily patrolled by authorities. Rokita tweeted about his experience before departing Texas.

It’s unclear what Rokita learned during his investigation at the border. When asked for an interview, a spokesperson told ABC21 that Rokita “wasn’t available” on Monday. Rokita would not be available on Tuesday either. When asked when Mr. Rokita would have availability to discuss his border investigation, ABC21 received no answer.

The expenses

Rokita drove to Texas in a vehicle owned by the state. Ted Ritchie, who provides security and logistics rode with him. A communications staffer took a roundtrip flight in the economy cabin for $628.21. The staffer also spent $161 on a rental car.

The state spent $733.10 on gasoline for Rokita’s government-issued SUV. The Indiana contingent’s hotel stays while in texas cost taxpayers $552.00. Rokita and Ritchie racked up several hundred dollars more as they transited to and from texas.

There was also a $19.99 expense logged for a phone charging cable. Food and beverage are covered by a per diem offered by the state. Rokita’s office confirmed he did not use his per diem.

Rokita’s son joined him for a portion of the trip and attended a Donald Trump rally while traveling. A spokesperson for Rokita’s office said taxpayer funds were not used in that case.

It's unclear what he learned during the course of his investigation. His office hasn't made him available to answer questions.

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