The Republicans must think they have congressman Solomon Ortiz on the ropes. They have put a lot of money and manpower into the race.They’re running ads in the lower coastal counties showing Ortiz with Nancy Pelosi. Texas congressman Joe Barton has gone into the district to stump for Ortiz’s Republican opponent, Blake Fahrenthod and Michael Burgess is expected to follow him. Last Friday, the Washington-based congressional newspaper, The Hill, wrote an article about Ortiz’s ethical problems. Here is an excerpt: Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas) has requested millions of dollars in earmarks that may have benefited a security firm he founded. Ortiz, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, helped direct earmarks and federal grants worth tens of millions of dollars to the Port of Corpus Christi, the nation’s fifth largest port. Since 1997, the port — which is in Ortiz’s district — has hired Amtex Global Services, Ortiz’s former firm, on contracts that have ranged from $900,0000 to more than $1 million annually. The company continues to pay Ortiz for the sale of his stake in it. Ortiz sold his 55 percent ownership in the firm in late 2003 after media reports raised conflict-of-interest concerns and accusations of political retaliation against critics of Amtex Security. He noted the sale on his congressional financial disclosure forms for that year. The Brownsville Herald has also been looking into Ortiz’s activities, especially his foreign travel: U.S. Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz’s office maintains that while he has traveled extensively since 1995 – both at taxpayer and special-interest expense – his trips have aided in safeguarding U.S. troops and even helped avert a nuclear crisis. A review of his international trips by The Brownsville Herald shows that from 1995 to 2009, Ortiz was out of the United States for approximately 260 days on 34 official, government-paid trips. That’s in addition to the approximately 320 days he was out of the country on 40 trips paid for by special-interest agencies or groups. Most of these trips, which also occurred from 1995 to 2009, were to the Far East. Ortiz has said his travels are part of his work as chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee and as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The paper went on to report that Ortiz is currently under scrutiny by the U.S. House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, which is investigating the possible misuse of per diem stipends on government-paid trips. In particular, the committee is checking whether he returned unspent stipends after the official trips, as required. * * * * This is the second item I have posted about Ortiz’s race, and it is apparent that his situation has deteriorated since the previous item (“Is Solomon Ortiz in Trouble?” posted October 10.) The Republicans would not be spending money in the district, nor would they be sending members to campaign, if they did not think they had a chance to beat Ortiz. Few tears would be shed if that came to pass.
Politics & Policy