Lobbyist re: Times report on Chávez party: I was mistaken when I said I was asked to contribute
The El Paso Times reported this:
Claudia Russell, a lobbyist for El Paso County, said she was one of the lobbyists who sponsored Chávez’s party in May. She said she put in about $150 after Chávez’s staff requested a contribution.
“I don’t know if I wanted to,” Russell said. “I just kinda felt it was my duty to.”
But, she said, the request was not out of the ordinary. Russell said lobbyists often help throw birthday parties for lawmakers, some that are extravagant nighttime affairs with DJs at downtown Austin clubs.
“Honestly, it didn’t strike me as unusual,” she said.
The article created a mini-firestorm, with supporters of state Rep. Norma Chávez calling the review who paid for her graduation party an attempt to smear her. Personally, I think it was a no-brainer, and I wish NPT had done the story. It was the internal buzz among political animals at the time and for weeks after, and it’s a legit area of inquiry (as is the fact that, as lobbyist Russell put it, such perks for legislators from lobbyists are not unusual). Part of the problem is that in El Paso there’s so little investigative journalism, or more particularly, political investigative journalism, that when it happens the defenders of the one who got gored have traction to complain that there must be an agenda at hand.
Maybe Russell’s unusual candor rebounded big-time, or maybe she really was speaking off-the-cuff and remembering things wrong. Either way, she sent a letter to the Times editor taking back what she said. I haven’t been able to find the letter online, so I don’t know if it’s been published (I don’t think so). Here it is:
— Sito Negron