El Paso, TX – A Texas congressman who co-authored the $1.4 billion dollar aid package for Mexico to fight the drug war faces questions over campaign donations from a former local politician arrested in February by federal agents for multiple drug trafficking charges.
With the May 29, primary looming, Silvéstre Reyes (D-TX), a 16 year congressional veteran of the Texas 16th Congressional District, and co-author of the Merida Initiative, has refused to return the money donated to him by former Socorro County (Texas) Commissioner Guillermo “Willie” Gándara Jr.
Gándara, 37, was arrested at his home in February by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for possession with intent to distribute 50 kilograms or more of marijuana, one substantive count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and three counts of maintaining property for the distribution of marijuana.
Since 2008, Gándara and his wife Claudia, have donated $9,500 to Reyes’s campaigns. According to campaign contribution documents, Gándara donated $1,200 and his wife, $1,000, to Reyes’s current re-election bid.
With a tight race going into Tuesday’s primary, Reyes’s opponent, Beto O’Rourke, a former El Paso city councilor, has seized on the contradiction of Reyes’s public stand on the drug war and his acceptance of campaign funds from a man who boasted on surveillance recordings, of the drug pipeline he has run from El Paso through Oklahoma and into Chicago.
“He’s the head of the war on drugs in El Paso and his biggest advocate in the area is Willie Gándara Jr.,” O’Rourke said. “What does it say about Congressman Reyes that he accepted money from an indicted drug dealer and has not returned it.”
Reyes’s spokesman, José Borjan, said the congressman has “set aside” the funds pending the outcome of Gándara’s case.
“If Willie Gándara pleads or is found guilty, Congressman Reyes will donate the funds to an anti-drug charitable organization,” Borjan said. “The congressman believes in due process and everyone is presumed innocent until found guilty.”
Joseph J. Kolb is a freelance reporter out of Gallup, New Mexico.
Joseph J. Kolb is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino.