Why Did Eliot Shapleigh Suddenly Go Politically Quiet?

Something that I noticed about the political undercurrent, once it became obvious that the public corruption investigations were throwing a wider net then the Luther Jones’ political faction, that has been bothering me for a while now is why did Eliot Shapleigh stop being a politician. In the various political functions, as the rumors simmered about who would be indicted next, I noticed that the Caballero-Rodriguez-Shapleigh faction went from rejoicing in jubilation to almost dead silence as the scope of the investigations rippled throughout the county. Sure there were some attempts at deflecting the taint of public corruption away from the Shapleigh troika with half-hearted “Contract with El Paso” media events. However Shapleigh’s well-oiled public machine started to sputter. The resulting silence almost seemed to me to be about; “oh crap the investigation is all encompassing”.

Eliot Shapleigh had created a public persona around the notion that he was a “tireless advocate for the poor and the underprivileged”. He had held the office of Texas Senator since 1997 effortlessly without any serious challenge. The 2006 election, Shapleigh’s last, may have been seen as a wakeup call to Shapleigh’s vulnerability but the fact is that Shapleigh’s political star was on the rise.

In October 2009, Eliot Shapleigh announced that he was not seeking reelection while leaving open the possibility that he would seek another office. Rumor in the political circles abounded around a run for mayor after his departure in 2011. A run for Congress was ruled out almost immediately by Shapleigh himself but other offices were at his beck and call according to the political pundits of the city.

Around 2010 Shapleigh started alleging serious problems at EPISD and Lorenzo Garcia’s public relations blitz initially put into question Shapleigh’s political acumen into question. However by 2012, Shapleigh was fully vindicated with the arrest of Lorenzo Garcia and Shapleigh’s political star was an at all time high.

However something interesting happened, Shapleigh not only went politically silent and except for a few EPISD related public events of vindication he also did not seek other political offices that seemed perfectly suited for him.

It didn’t sit right with me. Here is Eliot Shapleigh riding a political tsunami towards his next run at office and not only does he not seek another office he seems to have remained sidelined in the political futures of his offspring; Susie Byrd, Veronica Escobar, Beto O’Rourke and Steve Ortega. Why?

Did the 60 year-old finally decide it was time to retire and take it easy? That notion is supported by seeing that as an attorney, Eliot Shapleigh hasn’t tried any cases since his retirement from political office, except for one case that appears to be personally related to him.

His “retirement” would be the easy and obvious answer. However that does not explain how someone who relishes being in the political limelight and mentoring future political leaders after his persona would be absent from the public policy rhetoric shaping the community, especially when it involves those he has personally mentored. I do know that Shapleigh has remained politically engaged. As recently as a few months ago he, along with Veronica Escobar and Beto O’Rourke, counseled political activists against using my blog as a source of information. Publicly, though he has remained absent.

Obviously I do not know the answer to his silence however as most of you know I’m about connecting-the-dots.

The public corruption nexus has been about political campaign contributions to politicians. As such I have been analyzing the political contributions from the individuals about to go to jail or those already incarcerated for public corruption. Although political contributions per se are not indicators of public corruption they are nonetheless front-and-center in the discussion of political influence. In fact the rhetoric that emanated from the Shapleigh brood has been that public policy was being shaped by political contributions. Therefore I was looking to see if a pattern developed.

While looking at the Chilo Madrid political contributions I found something that caught my eye; Eliot Shapleigh.

Analyzing the Texas Ethics Commission’s political contributions database from January 1, 2000 through October 15, 2013 a pattern of sorts developed. As you already know, Cirilo “Chilo” Madrid was sentenced to 15 years in jail on April 15, 2013 after being found guilty of four counts related to public corruption in December. His co-conspirators were Dolores Briones and Ruben “Sonny” Garcia.

Sixteen El Paso politicians who were tracked by the Texas Ethics Commission received campaign contributions from Chilo Madrid and Sonny Garcia from January 1, 2000 through October 15, 2013. Of the $14,470 total campaign contributions, only $950 came from Sonny Garcia, the rest were from Madrid.

Of the total contributions, 25%, or $3,550 went to Eliot Shapleigh. Joe Pickett received 16%, or $2,375. The rest of the El Paso politicians that accepted the Garcia-Madrid largess were Chente Quintanilla ($1,200), Alfredo Chavez ($1,100), Marisa Marquez ($900), Yahara Gutierrez ($800), Norma Chavez ($750), Pat Haggerty ($750), Jose Rodriguez ($750), Patrick Garcia ($550), Dee Margo ($500), Lorraine O’Donnell ($445), Sam Medrano ($250), Paul Moreno ($250), Regina Arditti ($200) and Marcos Lizarraga ($100).

The largest contribution in a one year period given by the corrupt duo was $1,500; $600 of it coming from Sonny Garcia that was given to Shapleigh in 2006. In fact, 2006 was the year that Garcia and Madrid gave the most to El Paso politicians, giving a total of $3,145 in that year.

Those of you that have kept up with the public corruption saga in El Paso will remember that the first time the public became aware of issues with LKG Enterprises was in 2006 when Veronica Frescas and Lisa Tomaka, both former employees of the Border Children’s Mental Collaborative, started to sound the alarm about possible wrongdoing.

The last time the corrupt duo gave political contributions was in 2011. Chilo Madrid and Sonny Garcia were both arrested in December of that year. The last El Paso politicians to receive political monies from them were; Yahara Gutierrez, judge of the 65th District Court, coincidently the court that Alfredo Chavez who had received $1,000 in 2003 and another $100 in 2008, had previously occupied. Jose Rodriguez accepted $750, formerly the County Attorney and now a State Senator and Patrick Garcia, who accepted $550. Garcia is the judge for the 384th District Court. Sam Medrano, the judge of 409th District Court accepted $250 as well as Dee Margo who also accepted $250. Finally Marisa Marquez accepted $200 in 2011.

Many of you who have followed my online ranting about El Paso politics know that I often write about the “progressive” political faction that developed from the Ray Caballero, Jose Rodriguez and Eliot Shapleigh public policy agenda. I often refer to them as the troika. As many of you also know, Ray Caballero has blamed his public trouncing at the polls, in part on the Internet of which I was a significant part. Notwithstanding Caballero’s humiliating loss, of which only Steve Ortega has been able to duplicate, the troika’s disciples; Susie Byrd, Veronica Escobar, Beto O’Rourke and Steve Ortega managed to take significant control of the public policy agenda of the community.

In 2009 Eliot Shapleigh seemed politically invincible and in fact his political star was on an all-time high in 2012 when his call to arms against EPISD was vindicated with the arrest of Lorenzo Garcia. In 2012, his faction’s public policy agenda would have benefited greatly with Veronica Escobar leading the county and he at the helm of the city. Even Steve Ortega seemed to defer to a Shapleigh run for the mayoral ship. In the end, Ortega was soundly defeated at the polls and Shapleigh has been politically silent, yet active behind the scenes. Some would argue that Eliot Shapleigh astutely knew that the electorate had no further interest in the troika’s public policy. However that would mean that Steve Ortega was nothing more than a sacrificial lamb sent to be slaughtered by the electorate.

As I continue to connect the dots I can’t help but wonder if the initial jubilation into the public corruption investigations suddenly turned into fear when many in the community realized that the public corruption investigations went beyond Luther Jones and cohorts.

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