Something's rotten in the legislative districts of El Paso.
Back in the fall, in the battle for HD-78, Democratic state representatives Naomi Gonzalez (HD-76) and Marisa Marquez (HD-77) endorsed Republican incumbent Dee Margo over Democratic challenger and previous officeholder Joe Moody.
That wasn't smart politics and it wasn't responsive to the needs of their constituents — any Democrat is going to be more responsive to the needs of El Paso residents than a Republican, and Joe Moody is an exemplary public servant dedicated to making life better for all Texans.
As part of the endorsement, Gonzalez and Marquez appeared in at least three direct mailers supporting Margo. One is seen at right (click to open in new window). Turns out their opinion evidently didn't sway a lot of voters, as Moody was returned to office with 53.82% of the vote, ousting Margo.
Now, thanks to their January 15th semiannual reports, it is clear that Gonzalez and Marquez each took a $2500 donation from Margo's personal account, just days before the mailer went to print.
They also received another $2500 each from Margo's personal account after he lost. That's a total of $10,000 from Margo's personal bank account to the two Democrats.
Did Dee Margo give Naomi Gonzalez and Marisa Marquez $5,000 each to endorse him? Or are they actually just bought and paid for by Republican mega-donors?
See the details below the jump and decide for yourself. Now, I'm not directly claiming that Dee Margo paid off Naomi Gonzalez and Marisa Marquez to endorse him and appear on three of his mailers. (The history of the two “Democrats” is shady enough that they may have gone along with an effort to hurt their own party and constituents.) I just want to put the evidence out there and let people decide for themselves.
First, let's consider the timeline for the mailers.
9.24.12 — The first piece of mail in which Gonzalez and Marquez endorse Margo hits mailboxes.
9.20.12 — Mail piece with Gonzalez and Marquez is printed and mailed*
9.20.12 — Margo donates $2500 to Naomi Gonzalez from personal account
9.19.12 — Margo donates $2500 to Marisa Marquez from personal account
* My estimate is based on backing out two days from the first mailer's “hit” date for our fine friends at the postal service and two days to print and ship.
Now, let's consider the TEC reporting timeline.
Margo had a contested race, so he had to file semiannual TEC reports on July 15 and January 15, as well as a 30-Day report on October 9 and a 8-Day report on October 29. The “Amigos for Dee Margo” also filed a series of special telegram reports.
Neither Gonzalez nor Marquez had any opponent in 2012, so they only had to file semi-annual reports. Their most recent fundraising report came out on January 15, which detailed contributions and expenditures from July 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012.
Both Gonzalez and Marquez received $5,000 from Margo's personal bank account, not his campaign (or “Amigos of Dee Margo”), since contributions to either Democrat do not appear on their reports, and the contributions are listed as coming from Dee himself, not a campaign account.
While Dee Margo had to report all transfers of money in and out of his campaign account, he was under no such rules pertaining to his personal bank account. Since neither Gonzalez nor Marquez had November 2012 opponents, they would not be required to report any donations between July 1 and December 31 until January 15, 2013 — over two months after the election was over. Dee Margo's donations were a secret until this month's TEC filing.
And why did Margo give them money in the first place?! Neither of them had a general election opponent. They were unopposed on the ballot, guaranteed to win. Why would a Republican bother giving two Democrats such hefty donations?
Why would Gonzalez and Marquez do such a thing?
I can understand folks wanting to make an argument that with a Republican majority, El Paso might be better off with one Republican speaking up for the county and city's needs in this legislative session. But given the spectacularly lackluster legislative efforts of Dee Margo, that argument doesn't hold water. He was barely capable of the legislative equivalent of renaming post offices, and campaigned on supporting the sonogram law and allegedly increasing funding to education after the legislature cut $5 billion from Texas public schools.
Meanwhile, in the 2009 session, Joe Moody passed actual legislation to prevent gang violence, provide property tax relief to disabled veterans, and fund domestic violence centers across Texas. He was honored as “Freshman of the Year” by two non-partisan groups, including the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. This line of errant reasoning simply doesn't make sense.
Follow the money from Republican donors to Gonzalez and Marquez.
Gonzalez is basically in the house because Texans for Lawsuit Reform wanted to unseat former Representative Norma Chavez, and funded Gonzalez's campaign. To date, Gonzalez has taken $336,065 in her career from TLR. TLR is no friend to Democrats. Marquez, meanwhile, has taken almost $80,000 in her career from TLR. The group is her most significant donor.
The rest of Gonzalez's and Marquez's money comes heavily from Republican mega-donors who were also significant supporters of Dee Margo and Amigos of Dee Margo, not to mention our current statewide Republican officeholders.
|“Dee” Margo (all-time)
TLR PAC: $209K (1st)
Woody Hunt: $200K (2nd)
Paul Foster: $168K (3rd)
Frederick Francis: $12,500 (28th)
|Amigos of Dee Margo (all-time)
Paul Foster: $27,047 (2nd)
Woody Hunt: $25,000 (3rd)
TLR PAC: $15,000 (6th)
Frederick Francis: $5,000 (7th)
|Marisa Marquez (all-time)
TLR PAC: $79,644 (1st)
Woody Hunt: $13,500 (3rd)
Paul Foster: $11,500 (4th)
Frederick Frances: $6,000 (8th)
|Naomi Gonzalez (all-time)
TLR PAC: $336,065 (1st)
Woody Hunt: $6,500 (4th)
Frederick Francis: $4,500 (5th)
Who are these donors? What's the big deal? Well, basically Gonzalez and Marquez get their money almost entirely from Republican mega-donors, the same folks funneling money into Dee Margo and “Amigos of Dee Margo,” and statewide Republican candidates.
Woody Hunt has given over $190K to Texans for Rick Perry, $150K to Associated Republicans of Texas, $100K to David Dewhurst, and substantial sums to Friends of Susan Combs and other statewide Republican efforts. L. Frederick “Rick” Frances is a Perry appointee to the Texas Tech Board of Regents who has given heavily to Texans for Rick Perry ($50K), David Dewhurst ($22K), and Texans for Joe Straus ($15K). Paul Foster is also a Perry appointee — to the UT System Board of Regents — and El Paso's only billionaire. He has given over $400K to Texans for Rick Perry, $168K to Dee Margo, $126K to David Dewhurst, $117K to Texans for Greg Abbott, and $77K to Friends of Susan Combs. The Texas Tribune reports that Hunt and Foster were instrumental in rallying business community support for Dee Margo in his 2010 Republican primary against Jay Kleberg.
Watch Gonzalez and Marquez this legislative session and see where their loyalty really resides.
These two Democrats endorsed a Republican and take primarily Republican money. Thankfully Margo lost, so clearly the endorsements of Gonzalez and Marquez weren't game changers. And El Paso residents are lucky to have Representatives Joe Moody and Mary Gonzalez working hard for their needs every day.
Now, it all comes down to how they vote this session in the legislature. If Naomi Gonzalez and Marisa Marquez hold the Democratic line, especially on issues such as the budget, education, women's health, and healthcare, then maybe this can just be chalked up to one bad episode of really poor decision making. They would be wise to redeem themselves and work hard next cycle.
If, on the other hand, Gonzalez and Marquez repeatedly vote against Democratic priorities or undermine or weaken our efforts as a minority, then it's time to look for new candidates who will give the people of these districts what they want and deserve — actual Democratic representation, in the Legislature and in the campaign seasons that precede them.