I have written numerous times about the culture of corruption that permeates through El Paso. It is a mindset that embraces corruption and discourages honesty in business and in politics. As I have written previously, the El Paso economy is fully dependent on government largess. As such, there is no incentive for honest politics in the city. Much less, honest businesses. This culture of corruption was put on display in this week’s El Paso, Inc.

The corruption is so widespread that the politicos don’t bother to pretend that they are above it all. On Monday, Robert Gray in the El Paso Inc. weekly reported that local leaders were begging the judge to show leniency when he sentenced Thomas “Chris” Balisger to jail for ten years. The weekly pointed out that businessmen Rick Francis and Alan Russell, two of El Paso’s business gurus du jour, wrote letters to Judge Charles Clevert asking for leniency on behalf of Balisger.

You would think that politicos would be smart to at least pretend that they do not embrace corruption. But not so in El Paso. In addition to Francis and Russell, El Paso’s congressman, Beto O’Rourke and mayoral candidate, Dee Margo, also begged for mercy from the judge. This, in addition to several priests who also submitted letters.

I guess that for the priests, the stolen money that Balsiger showered them with was sufficient mea culpas for them to pretend that corruption is something the Almighty doesn’t concern Himself too much with.

Oh, sorry, I forgot that the priests look the other way as soon as the money makes their way into their palms. My bad.

Beto O’Rourke didn’t hold back at all. O’Rourke wrote in his letter that he is the businessman he is today, because of the “generous” mentoring that Chris Balsiger bestowed upon him.

Chris Balsiger was convicted on a multimillion-dollar scheme. Balsiger setup a sham company to swindle manufacturers out of coupon dollars. It wasn’t a simple case of a few coupons there, a few more over there, but a comic-book scheme where armies of people brought in coupons which were then cut up in a Juárez maquila, by low-wage workers, who then put them into cement mixers to give them that used look that the manufactures expected from real coupons.

All the while, Chris Balsiger was paying for goodwill through the news media and nonprofits in between his climbing mountains across the globe.

When the swindle began to collapse around him, Chris Balsiger began to threaten his employees, many of them low-wage Mexicans in Juárez who only wanted to make enough to feed their families.

But, Balsiger was climbing mountains and greasing palms in El Paso churches.

The court documents even show an attempt to intercept an undercover video by chasing a courier all over Juárez who was trying to get the video to the authorities. He even had a computer guru, James Currey of Currey Adkins, write up a computer program to hide the fraud.

But that’s ok because Balsiger was mentoring El Paso’s congressman, Beto O’Rourke, on how to comport himself in business.

I wonder if they had a little chat on how to beat poor Mexicans into submission when they aren’t working hard enough for the meager salaries that run their corrupt schemes?

Dee Margo, for his part, is enamored with Balsiger’s “philanthropy”.

Bob Jones, like Chris Balsiger, were routinely put on the pedestal of business acumen by the local news media and business elite. The nonprofits embrace them for the stolen money they pay them for their accolades and awards. Balsiger and Jones graced the local newspaper as the model that that El Paso embraces as their business champions.

Clearly, El Pasoans believe that corruption is the only way to business greatness.

Your taxes are sky-high because the politicos have embraced the corruption.

Here is the proof. The architect of the financial model that put forth the City’s 2012 Quality of Life projects is now spearheading the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) expenditures of taxpayer monies. This, for a school district that has admitted that it is losing students but continues to spend taxpayer funds. Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria is now running the finances for EPISD.

You should note that Oscar Leeser recently vetoed the City’s issuance of $44 million the city council wanted to issue in the form of certificates of obligations. Certificates of obligations are city debt that does not require the voters to approve them. In addition to the much-needed bathrooms at San Jacinto Plaza, the tax-funded money was earmarked to make up the shortfall in the pending quality of life projects.

The shortfall was because the budgets for the quality of life projects were created under Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria. She severely underbudgeted the costs for the various projects. The lack of restrooms for San Jacinto are also a result of Arrieta-Candelaria’s financial wizardry.

In a government and in a city, that discourages public corruption, individuals like Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria would be held accountable.

This is not true for El Paso because they only way the city’s finances remain viable is because corruption drives it. It is a vicious circle – businesses rely on the corruption to stay in business and in return they support corrupt individuals in office. The taxpayers are left funding the whole scheme.

The worst part is that the politicos aren’t even trying to hide that fact from you anymore.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

6 replies on “O’Rourke and Margo and the Culture of Corruption”

  1. Martin
    Now this is the stuff we like reading from you! It’s to funny Beto claiming as his mentor a man who is a criminal and who had to know what he was doing was criminal. Clearly Beto did not think this through or Balisger told Beto I know all your dirty little secrets and will out them if you do not stand up for me. Beto had to realize,then again maybe not, that if any one runs against him this could be used to support massive innuendos driven media blitz of the corrupt nature of Beto and his leadership since Beto’s mentor is a criminal. We are laughing so hard we nearly wet our self! Only in El Texo Texas!

  2. Martin, good report, but there is a lot of innuendoes. Good background of Balsiger but still no clear connection to others and Balsiger and the corruption in the city. We all can create suppositions, but I would like more connections. Beto O’Rourke can be seen to clearly be connected, simply by his letter, but what else? Dee Margo, might be going along with the rest for helping out “the guy”, or there might be more. I don’t know from your posting.

  3. Dee Margo’s insurance agency wrote the insurance for Balsiger’s company. There is your connection!

  4. James: Dee Margo owned JDW Insurance. Both Bob Jones and Chris Balsiger’s company’s were large insurance clients of JDW Insurance. Mr . Margo would have us believe both were “good” guys because they were both very philanthropic! Of course they were using money they had stolen from legitimate businesses to build their reputation. How about some additional investigative reporting into this question – In all the years Dee Margo owned JDW Insurance, just how many women became shareholders? The answer may surprise some and the reasoning is not supported by a lack of qualified candidates!

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