Is Steve Ortega so hard up for money now that he’s not on the public trough that he must keep $500 in questionable campaign contributions or is he arrogant enough not to think that the rules do not apply to him. The other question is why doesn’t Steve Ortega’s reports add up? The thing, though, is that numbers don’t lie. Two plus two will always equal four. Reviewing Steve Ortega’s campaign finance reporting is like trying to run on sand, I eventually get to where I am going but it takes an inordinate amount of energy and time. The conspiracy theorist in me believes that this is done on purpose in order to hide campaign finance shenanigans.
Steve Ortega filed two campaign finance reports this year, one on January 15 and the other on March 3. The latter seems to close out his campaign account. He reports holding no money. However, my math does not add up to his. Nevertheless, before I get to that let me get to two pieces of information in the January 15, 2014 report that should concern everyone that cares about the democratic process out.
In the January report, well after Steve Ortega was shown the door by the voters, he reported accepting $56,270.00 in campaign contributions. The period this report covers are the dates after the June 15, 2013 runoff against Oscar Leeser. As I have come to expect in the Steve Ortega campaign finance reports there are mathematical errors in the reports. Either Steve or his campaign treasurer cannot add two plus two or they are purposely filing erroneous reports regularly in order to avoid accountability. In this report, if you take the $56,270 in campaign contributions that Steve reports as taking in during this period and subtract, one by one the contributions that individuals made to his campaign then the result should be zero.
Lucky for us this exercise is rather simple because Steve Ortega only lists two campaign contributions on July 16, 2013. The first one was made by Woody L. and Gayle G. Hunt for $25,000. The second one was made by Paul L. Foster, also for $25,000.
There is much I want to comment about the $50,000 and where it came from and the timing, however the US political system is set up this way and although I may not like it, nonetheless the pattern shows that money bought influence in El Paso and no one in authority seems to care. What I want to focus on today is the math.
We take the two contributions, $50,000 and if we compare that to the part of the report where it says; “Total political contributions” I expect to see a nice round number of $50,000. Except that, what I see is $56,270.00, a difference of $6,270.00. Knowing that a campaign can take in campaign funds that do not necessarily show up on that particular line item on the report I look at the rest of Ortega’s filing to find the missing monies.
In Schedule K, I find that on July 8, 2013, Steve Ortega deposited $500 from Bain Construction back into his account. As you might remember I wrote three blog posts about the on again, off again campaign contribution from Bain Construction to Steve Ortega and how I questioned its legality. You can read the full detail about it here and here.
In short, I feel that the Bain Construction campaign contribution to Steve Ortega is in violation of the campaign laws of Texas. Steve Ortega’s campaign initially agreed with me, then changed their minds and then reported to the Ethics Commission that they had returned the money.
However, now it seems that Steve Ortega decided to keep the money after all. On Schedule K, the campaign wrote; “The contribution was accepted in good faith. The campaign learned Bain may be an incorporated entity and attempted to return the contribution. The contributee [sic] proved to be an LLC chose to reinstate the contribution.”
I still believe that both have violated the law.
Regardless, no one is going to hold them accountable, however the fact remains that if I add the $500 to the $50,000 we get $50,500. There is still a $5,770 discrepancy in the report. The expenditure side of the report is also off, this time by $30.00.
If we take all of the expenditures reported by Steve Ortega in his report, we get a total of $52,217.89, yet he reports spending $52,247.89.
Some of you will chalk it up to mathematical errors however; to me it shows it to be indications that campaign funds mishandling is occurring.
Steve Ortega was subject to filing six reports during his campaign for the mayor’s office. Of the six reports he filed, three had to be amended by him to correct discrepancies. Some of you would argue that it was the pressure of the campaign and possibly sloppiness.
Therefore, I went through all of the reports that Steve Ortega filed during the mayoral race, took all of the total contributions, and subtracted all of the expenditures he reported on each report. Where Ortega filed amended reports I used the numbers reported in the amended report.
Mathematically $28,060.64 in campaign funds are unaccounted for.
Keep in mind two things; the math is a simple addition and subtraction exercise. Second, Ortega’s March 3, 2014 report shows that he issued a check for $162.89 to the El Paso Community Foundation on January 13, 2014, effectively zeroing out his campaign account according to his numbers.
In fact, under “description” the following is written; “Donation of Final Campaign Contribution”. That report also attests that he holds zero campaign contributions.
Therefore, although Steve Ortega has reported that he has no more campaign funds in his possession there is still the matter of the math that shows $28,060.64 of money unaccounted for. I even went back and checked his last city council report to make sure the money could not be accounted there.
Had it been any other candidate the local news media would have been all over this.
I have clearly shown where there is a discrepancy in the campaign reporting. I have also clearly shown where there may be a violation of the election laws but it seems that any investigation into this would touch on some very wealthy people in the city and therefore it is monkey sees nothing across the city.
This is why corruption continues unabated in El Paso Texas.