As I expected, as soon as Claudia Ordaz got over the shock of the ethics complaint, she went into immediate damage control mode. As an experienced politico who has lived off of taxpayer monies almost from the moment she became an adult, she fully understands that it’s not about the facts but rather the public perception. She clearly knows how to deflect attention away from the reality of her situation. Let’s take a step-by-step look at how a seasoned politico deflects attention away from their political shenanigans. Her ethics complaint is the perfect case study on how politicians control the public dialog.
Act As If Nothing Has Happened
Ordaz started with the “act as if nothing has happened” tactic when first confronted with the unpleasant facts. You likely noticed that the first statements issued by Claudia Ordaz, to the news outlets is that it was “not an actual ethics complaint.” Seasoned politicos know to deny everything when confronted before they have had time to formulate a response. Also, notice how Claudia Ordaz deflected by pretending it wasn’t a real complaint? Ordaz understands how soundbites work and knows that to pretend all is good is always a good strategy when faced with unpleasantness.
Deflect Away From the Issue
However, Ordaz knows that constituents love seedy headlines and she needs to deflect her problems away from herself unto someone else. Joyce Wilson’s team has been doing this by focusing away from the $22 million debacle unto the problems between Tommy Gonzalez and Larry Romero. Scandal drives constituency attention and thus a serious issue of ethics and possible criminal ramifications must be focused somewhere else. For this you need a public relations machine in place, some media savvy and to launch an attack against the person bringing attention to the unpleasant facts.
Attack The Messenger
The individual who filed the ethics complaint must be demonized. This is important because the messenger must be horrible for bringing up the problem in the first place. This serves two purposes for Claudia Ordaz. The first is that it allows her the ability to further distract from the actual problem by focusing on her accuser. Remember, almost all criminal suspects will tell you that the police have it out for them. Wife beaters will almost always tell you that the wife is to blame for the beating. Individuals accustomed to doing wrong seldom accept responsibility and attack those that bring it to their attention.
As an added bonus, attacking the messenger also allows Claudia Ordaz to deploy her media machine to further distract from the facts. Instead of constituents talking about the ethics issues, they instead are distracted towards the person who pointed them out. Remember, the facts are just inconvenient to those intent on wrong doing. A mechanism to carry out the attack on the messenger is required by the politico looking to distract. Claudia Ordaz has her media machine at her beck and call in the form of Jaime Abeytia and Bob Moore. But, first let’s look at the facts of the issue so that we can apply them to what is going on.
Facts Are Just Inconveniences
Here are the facts that Claudia Ordaz is desperately trying to deflect you away from. It has been proven that Claudia Ordaz shared executive session material with an outsider without the city council’s approval. The El Paso Times has dug up a Texas Attorney General Opinion from 1989 stating that it is fine to reveal executive session material to outside parties.
First I want you to notice two things about the opinion. Yesterday I shared with you a more relevant fact, a court ruling that emphatically stated that one city representative cannot unilaterally share executive session material with an outsider without the approval of city council. Melina Castro attempted to share documents about a $500,000 payment to a former employee. The court told her she could not do that. The Castro court case was adjudicated in 2009, much closer than the 1989 opinion.
More importantly, the Castro case was a court ruling as opposed to an opinion from the Texas Attorney General. The fact is that the opinion has not been tested in court.
However, there is something interesting about the opinion (July 11, 1989 JM-1071) that Bob Moore’s newspaper neglected to point out. The opinion opines that executive session “does not prohibit persons who are present at the executive session from afterwards talking about the subject matter of the session”. Notice the word afterwards?
The record is clear in that Claudia Ordaz leaked details about the executive session material to Veronica Escobar during the executive session meeting, not afterwards. Furthermore, the opinion states that the statue does not prohibit members from “making public statements about the subject matter” [emphasis mine] of the session. Sending Veronica Escobar information from behind the closed doors of the executive session is not a public statement. It is a private disclosure to a select individual.
There is huge difference between issuing a public statement to the news media and telling someone directly about confidential discussions.
Look at it in this way. Let’s assume, for a moment, that Larry Romero revealed the possible downtown locations for the upcoming 2012 Quality of Life arena to a downtown building owner? How would the El Paso Times have reported this?
Would the El Paso Times be writing that the Texas Attorney General has opined that talking about executive session deliberations is alright because of the First Amendment? Of course not, Bob Moore would be demanding the immediate resignation of Larry Romero for putting the city at a disadvantage by revealing where the city prefers to build the arena.
But instead of revealing executive session deliberations for the possible location of the arena, Claudia Ordaz revealed deliberations about potential economic incentives. The reason that the city council is allowed to deliberate economic incentives in executive session is because a public discussion puts the city at a disadvantage. How is that any different from revealing the proposed location of the arena? It is not.
This brings squarely back to the Bob Moore and his newspaper. Moore is an important component of Ordaz’ media machine, courtesy of Veronica Escobar.
Deploy the Media Machine
Bob Moore has demanded the resignation of Larry Romero, in part because Romero bypassed the city’s processes in having streets in his district resurfaced. The El Paso Times has published piece after piece focused on how Tommy Gonzalez and Larry Romero have bypassed established protocols. However, when Claudia Ordaz does not adhere to the established protocols, keeping executive session material confidential, the newspaper looks for excuses to excuse her actions. Do you see the contrast?
Claudia Ordaz fully understands how social media works and how to leverage it to manipulate the news media’s attention. It helps her that she has a full-time blogger, Jaime Abeytia, to create the necessary illusions. Along with her willing accomplice, Bob Moore at the El Paso Times, Ordaz is able to manipulate the public perception through distraction.
Look closely at how the El Paso Times is reporting on the Ordaz ethics complaint and compare it to how it has reported the ethics complaints filed against Tommy Gonzalez and Larry Romero. The newspaper has been focused on the allegations of the ethics complaints against the two from the moment they were revealed.
However, when it came to Claudia Ordaz, the newspaper focused on why they believed the ethics complaint may have technical difficulties. As you ponder this, keep in mind two things. The first is the fact that the Texas Attorney General’s opinion, is just that, an opinion. Its assertion has not been tested in court.
But more importantly, the second issue is that the paper has focused on the impropriety of Larry Romero bypassing city protocols. The City has been consistently clear about executive session materials. The city attorney has routinely, over the years, cautioned city representatives about talking about executive session meetings with outsiders. This is the accepted standard under which the city operates.
Clearly, sending text messages from within executive session to an outside party is outside of the protocols the City routinely sets for itself. Yet, Bob Moore’s paper doesn’t even mention that. Instead of focusing on the process, like they did with Romero, the paper offers excuses.
First the paper defends Ordaz with the opinion and then the paper argues that the law quoted in the ethics complaint refers to recordings and certified agendas. Melina Castro did not ask to release the certified agenda or recordings of the meetings, yet the court refused to allow her to do so. The ethics complaint does not accuse Ordaz of divulging the certified copies but it does accuse her, and proves that she divulged confidential information. This is a fact and it clearly violates the standard protocols that the city routinely adheres to.
I believe you can clearly see the contrast between the coverage of Larry Romero and Claudia Ordaz. The reason is simple. Add this latest example as another one in the litany of Bob Moore’s selective coverage of politicos in the city.
A Word About Corruption
I have written many pieces outlining my belief that corruption is not just a simple case of exchanging money for political favors. It is much more complex than that. I have shown you how corruption manifests itself by simply having a police officer look the other way because they happen to like the person that is committing the crime or because they are close to ending their shift. No money exchanged hands, but the corruption still exists. I can give you many more examples but rather than bore you with details, let me explain why I believe the text messages from Claudia Ordaz to Veronica Escobar are corrupt.
It is actually really simple. Replace the name Claudia Ordaz with Melina Castro and replace Veronica Escobar with Luther Jones. Now apply the exact same scenario with the text messages. I believe you can clearly see how the newspaper, Veronica Escobar and others would be responding to it.
A conspiracy can only happen when more than one individual work in conjunction towards a single goal. It is obvious that Claudia Ordaz and Veronica Escobar worked towards the goal off keeping incentives off of the table for a company. Now add to the mix, the selective reporting by the El Paso Times.
If you are honest with yourself, you will clearly see how corrupt the whole thing is.
Just one more quick note.
I created this cartoon back in June. As you can see, not much has changed in El Paso politics in the last six months. The same people are still taxing you all too death.