One of the things about political shenanigans that has always intrigued and bothered me is that many people whisper about them while nothing seems to be done about it. For many years, I kept hearing about political operative working in the shadows. These were individuals that, for a price, could get things done. As these discussions were ongoing I was struck about how in the same conversation people would tell me how corrupt Mexico was while telling me that so-and-so is the political fixer for that politician. The irony was not lost in me however; it appeared to me that it was lost in in the people telling me about a “fixer”.
One name that kept popping up was Marc Schwartz.
Getting tired of listening about how corrupt my country was I started looking into El Paso’s “political fixers” in order to be able to offer a counter argument to the notion that all was well in El Paso. At the same time, actively playing at the Tigua Casino when it was open, I become interested in their battle with the State of Texas that was trying to shut them down. Marc Schwartz showed up as the “face” of the Tiguas and Schwartz later showed up as the public relations guru for Bob Jones and his various businesses. All the while, in private discussions about El Paso politics the name Marc Schwartz was frequently mentioned.
Even after the fiasco of the Jack Abramoff scandal, Marc Schwartz was portrayed as the person to get political advantage with in El Paso. As you probably remember back in 1999, the State of Texas sued the Tiguas in order to shut down their casino. In February of 2002, the Tigua’s casino is closed by order of a federal court. On March 5, 2002, the Tiguas contract Michael Scanlon for $4.2 million to lobby for federal legislation in order to reopen the casino.
As they say, the rest is history. As you well know, the Tiguas were defrauded by the Jack Abramoff-Michael Scanlon national lobbying fraud. By 2004, the fraud began to be exposed and by November 2005 Scanlon had pleaded guilty for his part of the fraud.
The person that brought the Abramoff-Scanlon duo to the Tigua’s was none other than March Schwartz.
According to an online article written by Roy Ortega on November 7, 2013, Marc Schwartz was instrumental of the firing of Ortega from KTSM-TV. According to Ortega, Marc Schwartz pressured the television station to fire him in 1999.
In 2006, a former business partner of mine tried to convince me that Bob Jones was the ticket to success in El Paso. Even though Jones was entrepreneur of the year and seemed successful publicly, to me, his business just did not make sense. Things just didn’t add up. Likewise, Schwartz just seemed too slick to be above board as far as I was concerned.
In “The Architect: Karl Rove and the Dream of Absolute Power” by James Moore and Wayne Slater, the authors quote Marc Schwartz about a meeting held between Michael Scanlon and Karl Rove in 2002 in the middle of a Washington street corner. When the book was released in 2007, the first-hand account by Schwartz of a meeting between Scanlon and Rove created a media frenzy trying to connect Scanlon to Rove. Schwartz denied making that statement to the authors to numerous media outlets although the authors stated that their interview of Schwartz was backed by audio recordings and notes. According to James Moore, the reason Marc Schwartz refused to acknowledge his comments was that Schwartz feared a backlash against his income because of his “GOP political connections” and how they would retaliate.
Yet, many of the politicians seemed to continue to gravitate to Schwartz.
According to a 2005 financial disclosure form filed by Steve Ortega, Marc Schwartz contributed $500 to Steve Ortega on May 26, 2005. Although I suspect there are some other political contributions by Marc Schwartz to other El Paso politicos it seems that there were few as I had a hard time finding others.
Yet, Marc Schwartz kept popping up as a political operative.
As you all well know, Marc Schwartz pleaded guilty to conspiring to pay bribes to numerous individuals in the Access HealthCare scheme on July 13, 2012. He was sentenced to eight years in prison on November 6, 2013.
I have previously asked why was it that the city seems to have avoided controversy in the public corruption scandals although all of the other major public entities were corrupted by the same individuals. Was the city’s processes and governance effective to avoid being involved? Or was there something else at play?
I have already pointed out how Steve Ortega took $500 from Marc Schwartz. I have also already pointed out how it was well known that Marc Schwartz was politically connected to the major politicians of the city. I also previously wrote about how Larry Medina looked to Marc Schwarz for the money Medina needed to mount his political campaign. I also showed you previously how the judge admonished Larry Medina during his sentencing by reminding Medina that there are write taps of Marc Schwartz thanking Medina for his help while at city council.
Clearly, Marc Schwartz was peddling political influence via political contributions.
Although the evidence existed shortly after the Tigua revelations and things just didn’t seem right every time I, or someone else, would point out that something was wrong, especially when it came to Steve Ortega, or the other Ray Caballero disciples the retort was always prove it.
Unfortunately as evidenced by Roy Ortega’s recent revelation about his own experiences and the fact that Marc Schwartz is in jail these facts are too little and too late.
Steve Ortega, although he continues to hide emails that might reveal problems about the process with the ballpark is mostly out of politics. Likewise, Roy Ortega seems to have recovered from his encounter with Schwartz.
Yet, the fact remains that although many of us feel that the ballpark was corruptly enabled we are hampered because the “facts” remain largely hidden behind legal shenanigans hiding emails and although allegations of wrongdoing at the city by both criminals Larry Medina and Marc Schwartz have been documented in court records the fact remains that no one has been prosecuted for those crimes.
Although questions about Marc Schwartz’ political activities were raised as far back as the late 1990’s it wasn’t until 2012 when some if his criminal activities, not all, were finally proven. Through the ten plus years of whispers of corruption many partook of the corrupt influence peddling by Schwartz and the people he represented yet very few have been held to account to this date.
Is it possible that sometime in the next ten years I will be writing another blog about how many of us felt there was something wrong with the ballpark process?
I believe history will once again repeat itself because although there is evidence of something being wrong, just like Marc Schwartz was able to waltz around town offering his services back then, today’s questions about the process are just relegated to “it’s a few malcontents” who don’t want the ballpark. By the time the dots finally connect about the ballpark it will probably be too late for the taxpayers who will be footing the bills to pay it off.
Many of the people involved in the ballpark will have moved on by then to work on the next scam looking for more money to pillage from the taxpayers. In other words, just like in the case of Marc Schwartz, a little too little and a little too late.