This isn’t exactly news, in the sense that nearly two months ago the Club for Growth ran an anti-Beto O’Rourke ad highlighting his support for his billionaire father-in-law’s El Paso redevelopment plan. On the other hand, it’s not as if the media’s love affair with Beto, which reached the level of self-parody weeks ago, has really focused much attention on the billionaire side of the family. Hence, the NY Times is only today publishing a story about Beto work for the “moneyed elite” in El Paso who also happened to be his father-in-law.
At a special City Council meeting in 2006, a billionaire real estate investor unveiled his vision for redeveloping downtown El Paso. To replace tenements and boarded-up buildings, he proposed restaurants, shops and an arts walk rivaling San Antonio’s River Walk.
Representative Beto O’Rourke, one of hundreds attending, wasn’t exactly a disinterested party.
Not only had he married the investor’s daughter, but as a member of City Council he represented the targeted area, including a historic Mexican-American neighborhood.
Calling downtown “one piece of El Paso that was missing on the road back to greatness,” Mr. O’Rourke, now the Democratic candidate for Senate in Texas, voted to take the first step forward with the plan…
Mr. O’Rourke was perceived by many as siding with the moneyed elite against angry barrio residents, small business owners and even the Jesuit priests who ministered to the immigrant community at Sacred Heart Church.
“Mr. O’Rourke was basically the pretty face of this very ugly plan against our most vulnerable neighborhoods,” said David Dorado Romo, a local historian who says the episode resurrected longstanding race and class divisions in the city.
One of the major issues in the redevelopment plan was the possible use of eminent domain to get the ball rolling. A business group formed to opposed the plan and filed an ethics complaint against O’Rourke. The complaint was rejected by the city’s ethics commission and O’Rourke eventually recused himself. The Times reports that the redevelopment plan fell apart after a state ballot initiative forbid the use of eminent domain to seize private property for private use (as opposed to government use).
None of this really fits with the punk-rock-progressive image that O’Rourke has cultivated. I wonder how many of his younger fans even know he married into tremendous wealth. Here’s the Club for Growth ad: