Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Bill Clinton (D) appointee, told reporter Greg Stohr for Bloomberg on an August 26, 2013 report that one of the questions she is asked most often about the US political system is “why should elections be determined by how much a candidate can spend” on their election. Ginsburg added that part of the question included “why should candidates spend most of their time” raising funds for their next election. There is no doubt that money is what is driving the nation’s politics across most of the political spectrum. El Paso, a microcosm of political influence peddling, gives us a view of how money drives a public policy agenda and the ramifications sanctioned corruption has on a society.
I define sanctioned corruption as public corruption that imposes a public agenda as a result of an electoral result based on influence peddling through money. Although money has always been central to the political system, I believe that it has become egregious in the last couple of decades. The result has been the impunity permeating through the system. El Paso gives us multiple examples sanctioned corruption and the results of it.
For many years, I have been documenting the many instances of the public corruption and political shenanigans in the El Paso political scene. All of them have one central figure in the story line: the influence peddling of a few over the majority. There are many instances but I believe that the examples that follow will not only show how state sanctioned corruption works but also show you the consequences of it.
A state sanctioned corrupt system only exists in a political system that controls the public discussion and promotes cronyism within its ranks to allow the self-perpetuating tools needed to maintain the sanctioned corrupt state. Jaime Abeytia gives us an example of how this works.
First, you have an individual whose moral character is questionable at best. The individual is allowed to manipulate the public discussion through well-placed “news” leaks and perception management pieces. Once Abeytia proved himself to the power base, they allowed him to be a significant part of the campaign of one of the candidates they were positioning into office. After the candidate was elected into office (Vince Perez), the power elite rewarded Abeytia with a taxpayer-funded position in the government you are controlling through their candidate, Perez.
Since Abeytia’s moral character has proven to be lacking it was just a matter of time before he got into legal trouble. Because the system needs to protect itself rather than allow Jaime Abeytia to deal with his legal issues without drawing a taxpayer funded salary they allow him to keep his job while the process is slowed down to a crawl to ensure Abeytia maximizes his salary.
Coincidently and maybe not so coincidently in a corrupt system, Jaime Abeytia’s primary benefactor starts a public investigation of the branch of government that is supposed to determine whether Abeytia is guilty of the charges he has been charged with. The judicial system that enables the secrecy used to hide the political shenanigans also participates in the process by allowing individuals such as Abeytia to game the legal system in order to forestall the ultimate determination of guilt or innocence.
To date the only outcome of the whole Jaime Abeytia saga is that he is charged with a crime involving moral turpitude while he continues to draw a salary. This after his case involving computer breaches and showing harmful materials to a minor, his daughter, continues to languish in the court system for over a year. His case is now scheduled for October.
This pending case against Jaime Abeytia is not his first as he has several other cases that have been filed against him previously. Although Abeytia has been charged with a serious crime involving his moral character he continues to draw a taxpayer-funded paycheck while the system allows him to delay his ultimate adjudication to the charges.
Ann Morgan Lilly
A system of sanctioned corruption allows a government official to be charged with assault and the results of the investigation disappear into a wall of secrecy that makes determining the outcome next to impossible. Ann Morgan Lilly has been accused of assault not once but at least twice during her tenure in office. Rather than having a transparent and public investigation, the investigations into her assault charges are veiled behind a secret police unit whose primary function is to investigate important people in the community. The outcome into the investigation into Ann Morgan Lilly’s assault charges have conveniently disappeared into a government-sanctioned bureaucracy that keeps the details of the investigation a secret. A state sanctioned corrupt system requires secrecy to protect the special interests of those who control the public policy agenda they are driving.
Steve Ortega best exemplifies the three major points of a sanctioned corrupt system. Most anyone will agree that Steve Ortega was instrumental in pushing forth the public policy agenda of Foster and Hunt in regards to the ballpark. Most everyone will agree that the ballpark was one of the most recent controversial public policy items in the city. Likewise, most everyone would agree that Foster and Hunt benefited by Ortega’s votes while on city council. That covers the first aspect of a sanctioned corrupt system: the need to place like-minded individuals into office in order to control the outcome of the public policy agenda.
The second aspect of a sanctioned corrupt system is to demonstrate how money is used to place the appropriate individuals into office to control the votes necessary for the public policy agenda. Although a correlation can be demonstrated between the campaign donations to specific candidates by the public policy agenda drivers, Hunt and Foster, the money connection is best exemplified by Steve Ortega’s latest campaign report.
After Steve Ortega had lost the mayoral race, he received two $25,000 campaign contributions from the principal beneficiaries of Ortega’s votes on city council in regards to the ballpark. The $50,000 campaign contribution was given to him by Woody Hunt and Paul Foster. The question that has not been asked is why Hunt and Foster felt compelled to give Steve Ortega $50,000 after Ortega had lost the election. The second question the needs to be asked, was the $50,000 promised to Ortega before the end of the campaign? If not, then why did Foster and Hunt contribute to Ortega’s campaign after the election?
We can only speculate as to why the money was given to Steve Ortega because the system conveniently does not allow us to question the motives behind the campaign contribution. Is the community’s inability to delve deeper into the reasons for a significant campaign contribution a flaw in the system or is it an intentional process designed to thwart further investigation into the issue.
A sanctioned corrupt system benefits from the community’s inability to seek specific information about a significant campaign contribution to a candidate that has lost a political race.
A sanctioned corrupt system requires the ability to keep public discourse away from controversial issues that affect the community. We know that Jane Shang is receiving a taxpayer-funded paycheck for staying home. Shang is not working for the money the taxpayers are paying her.
However, we know very little about the details of the payments she is receiving because her payments are shrouded in secrecy, government supported secrecy. Even the individuals that are elected by the community seem to not know how it is that Jane Shang is being paid to stay home.
Ann Morgan Lilly, the same individual I discussed above that was accused of assault is the only politician to discuss knowing about Shang’s checks. Interestingly, before Jane Shang was put on paid administrative leave she was in charge of the department that oversees one of Morgan Lilly’s accusers on the latest assault charge.
Are the two things related? We can only speculate because of the system of sanctioned secrecy the city hides behind when inconvenient questions are asked.
The system that allows Shang’s payments to remain secret is supposed to have a mechanism by which the taxpayers of the community are represented through their elected officials. Yet, if we accept the news media’s reporting about the Jane Shang issue then we know that none of the elected officials, except for Morgan Lilly, knew about the money Jane Shang is being paid.
Even with these sets of facts, the governmental body continues to hide behind government-sanctioned mechanisms that allow the facts to the case to remain veiled in secrecy. How are the taxpayers to understand the circumstances about Jane Shang if they have been excluded from the facts about the issue?
Sanctioned corruption requires secrecy to keep the discussion away from the community.
For many years, I have showed you examples of police impunity. For the most part the documentation is lacking because state sanctioned corruption prevails when the news media ignores its mandate and while the government actors rely on judicial procedures to keep the relevant documentation away from public scrutiny.
Nothing better exemplifies a sanctioned corrupt system then the case of the death of Daniel Saenz. Regardless of how you feel about the death of Daniel Saenz, the facts are simple enough. Saenz was a handcuffed individual that was dragged around the downtown jail for a significant amount of time by two individuals, an unidentified guard and El Paso police officer Jose Flores. Daniel Saenz was left alone with one individual apparently docile through the portions of the video that have been reluctantly released to the community. It wasn’t until soon before he was killed that Daniel Saenz displayed any resistance to been taken into custody, hours after he was put under the control of government officials.
The government representatives have argued that Daniel Saenz had shown himself to be a danger to those around him and that Jose Flores killed him as a result. Yet, the government has not provided any evidence to this. What evidence exists in the public realm shows a handcuffed individual being killed by a government official. The community has again been excluded from making its own determination about the incident because the facts are hidden from public view as a result of the system’s use of judiciary processes that allow it to keep secrets.
As with everything in life, there are reactions to any activity. In the case of a sanctioned corrupt system, the resulting actions are normally consequences to the community. The death of Daniel Saenz and the fact that the police officer was judged by the system as not culpable in his death is a consequence of a system that values secrecy over public scrutiny.
I would argue that Saenz’ death, at the hands of the system, is ample proof that sanctioned corruption not only exists in the community but it is supported by those that use it to their benefit. Saenz’ death is the consequence of a system that values and supports sanctioned corruption.