Anyone that follows El Paso politics knows that there is only one campaign consulting and management company in town. It is an open secret in El Paso that to get support from the wealthy members of the city, you need to work with the Forma Group. It isn’t like Forma connects the candidates to the wealthy, but rather, some of the most active wealthy campaign donors demand that politicos receiving their donations need to work with Forma.
In 2013, the Forma Group was a secretive public relations firm consulting for political candidates. [link] As I wrote back then, the Forma Group seems to have been founded by Ricardo Armendariz and Robert Reyes. But two other names have routinely come up in association with Forma, Marcus Saenz and Mark A. Smith. As I have documented over the years, Forma has been controversial from the onset. Marcus Saenz, one of the names initially associated with Forma, was sentenced to four months in prison for making false statements in 2004. In 2007, Saenz was sentenced to three years’ probation for, again, making false statements. Saenz lied to the IRS. [link]
For his part, Ricardo Armendariz has been delinquent in filing his Texas lobbyist reports. He was fined $500 by the Texas Ethics Commission. [link]
The Forma Group, itself, forfeited its state charter in 2012 for failing to pay taxes. [link]
The other name associated with Forma is Mark Smith, who worked for Woody Hunt before starting his own public relations firm. As I originally disclosed to you in 2013, if you wanted political donations from Woody Hunt, Robert Brown, Paul Foster, Harold Hahn and Ted Houghton, you needed to use Forma Group as your political consultant. [link] Most of the political donations were handled by Mark Smith, who in 2013 was served with a protective order by one of his former female employees.
In 2016, Forma was joined by Marisa Marquez, who was still a Texas State Representative when she accepted an appointment with Forma to be a partner in the firm. In 2013, Marisa Marquez was involved in a controversy over a text message from Mark Smith insinuating that Marquez would run interference for a politician if they paid Forma Group to do so. The text message was from 2012. [link]
As you can clearly see by the evidence I have posted over the years, if you wanted money from the city’s bigwigs, you needed to hire the Forma Group.
Other than the Forma Group, there have been other independent contractors over the years, including the late Jaime O. Perez. Of course, there are those like Jaime Abeytia who think they have the know-how, but are nothing more than paid political mercenaries. And, don’t forget about David Karlsruher who managed to get a few votes for himself butt believes he is a political guru. Several other individuals have stepped forward to help grassroots efforts trying to rid the city of the paid politicians working for the deep pockets of the community. The politicos that did not get campaign donations from the bigwigs faced a very difficult time running grassroots campaigns against their opponents using the Forma Group.
That may be changing soon.
recently I heard a rumor that there was another campaign strategy and management firm in the works. Like all rumors, I needed to confirm this one, so I reached out to former city representative Eddie Holguin.
Holguin confirmed to me that he is launching Sun Circle Strategic Group next week. Holguin told me that he will be holding an event early next week to announce his plans. Although Holguin wouldn’t go into much detail, because he wants to finalize his plans first, he did confirm to me that Carl Robinson is his first client and is finalizing details with other potential clients. Holguin told me that his plan is to offer a full range of political and voter outreach services to grassroots campaigns. Holguin told me wants to offer a holistic service through grassroots techniques coupled with technology for politicians looking to be elected, and once elected, to keep their constituency engaged and served. He wants to equalize the playing field for candidates running against opponents funded with deep-pocket money and managed by the Forma Group.
Eddie Holguin promised to let me know which candidates sign up with him for the current election cycle and to share more details about his plans. I’ll bring those to you as soon as they are made available to me.