Texans are on the hook for $3.9 million in costs for Attorney General Greg Abbott to fight for Republican-championed redistricting maps, and that number will only grow as a years-long legal fight continues Monday in federal court in San Antonio. A big tally is expected in complicated redistricting litigation, experts say, particularly with the Abbott legal team’s aggressive defense of the congressional and legislative maps approved by the GOP-majority Legislature. “Abbott’s attitude has been very much ‘I’m going to litigate this to the ends of the earth,'” said Michael Li, redistricting counsel at the Brennan Center at New York University School of Law. Abbott’s staff said he simply is doing his job as the state’s top lawyer and that the responsibility for the costs lies with those who have challenged the maps. Democrats said Abbott is using taxpayer funds as an ATM to defend discriminatory maps. Minority and civil rights groups, including the League of United Latin American Citizens, Mexican American Legislative Caucus and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, originally mounted the redistricting challenges in 2011.
Abbott’s Democratic opponent in the governor’s race, Sen. Wendy Davis, also sued and beat back changes to her Senate district. She, along with several other plaintiffs, was awarded attorney’s fees that are not included in the total because Abbott’s office is appealing.
The $3.9-million tab so far, provided to the San Antonio Express-News in response to a Public Information Act request, includes more than $2.2 million in costs for in-house salary and overhead at the state attorney general’s office.
Abbott spokeswoman Lauren Bean said internal costs include employee salaries that would have been incurred regardless of the cases. The state lawyers have spent 26,986 hours on redistricting litigation.
The total also includes $887,327 for high-powered outside counsel, $447,567 for expert witnesses and $339,996 for travel and other expenses.