The current city representative for District 8, Cecilia “Cissy” Lizarraga, is having a fundraiser and reception on April 28. Lizarraga’s term ends on January 3, 2023. According to the latest financial reports filed on January 13, 2021, Lizarraga has $3,265.23 left in her campaign funds and an outstanding loan for $10,000.
Lizarraga was first elected in July 2017 in a runoff election after finishing second in the June 10 election. She defeated Robert Cormell by 357 votes in that runoff. She was elected to fill the unexpired term of Courtney Niland after Niland resigned her seat. Her first term ended on January 19, 2019.
For her second term, Lizarraga was again forced into a runoff election in a five-way race on November 6, 2018. She won the runoff on December 15, 2018 with 62.33% of the vote.
Her current term ends on January 3, 2023.
Cissy Lizarraga’s two campaigns in 2017 and 2018 and a possible campaign in the 2022 elections provides the El Paso electorate an opportunity to better understand how elections are funded in El Paso.
In her two campaigns, Lizarraga has spent $276,854.19.
The political consultants in Lizarraga’s first campaign were Norma Chavez of Texico, Chris Hernandez, Michael Apodaca and Eddie Holguin of Sun Circle. Chavez received the bulk of the $19,565.00 Lizarraga reported spending on political consulting fees for her first election. Chavez was paid $17,485.
The amount Lizarraga spent on consultants for her first election represents 55.25% of the $35,411.01 she raised in political contributions before the Forma Group became her political consultant.
The Forma Group
Lizarraga enlisted the help of the Forma Group for her second campaign. On June 28, 2018, Lizarraga contracted the Forma Group, making a first payment to them for $5,000. Lizarraga reported loaning herself $5,000 on the same day on her July 17, 2018 report.
For her second campaign, Lizarraga raised $127,265 and paid the Forma Group $70,219.68 for political consulting services. The Forma payments represents 55.18% of the total contributions she raised.
Lizarraga is being hosted to a fund-raising event on April 28 by several individuals who contribute heavily in political races in El Paso.
The major contributors are Richard Castro, Paul Foster, Rick Francis, Woody Hunt, Stanley Jobe, Kirk Robinson and Doug Schwartz.
Stanley Jobe was convicted of bank fraud in 1994. In January 2001, Stanley Jobe was pardoned by Bill Clinton. Jobe’s wife, Martie Jobe who lobbied the Clinton White House for her husband’s pardon, was implicated but not charged in the 2007 El Paso corruption cases dubbed Poisoned Pawns.
Except for Stanley Jobe, who contributed $1,500 to Lizarraga’s campaign before the Forma Group got involved, the rest of the major contributors only began contributing to Lizarraga after Forma became involved.
According to Lizarraga’s financial disclosure forms from May 11, 2017 through January 13, 2021, the seven major contributors named above have contributed a total of $50,500. The largest contributor is Woody Hunt at $13,000 (23.36%) followed by Richard Castro at $10,000 (17.97%).
During the period in which the seven made contributions to Lizarraga’s campaign, their contributions represented 31.04% of the total contributions raised by Lizarraga during that time.
The Forma Group has been paid $70,219.68 by Lizarraga through January 2021. That amount represents 71.92% of the total funds raised by Lizarraga during that time frame.
The Forma Group has a controversial history in El Paso.
In the run up to the 2020 elections where Oscar Leeser was challenging Dee Margo for the mayoral race, a secretive mail out titled “Keep Going. Stay Strong” was delivered to El Paso voters’ mailboxes. The mailout did not contain any disclosures as to who was paying for the campaign.
As previously reported by the El Paso Politics, Rick Armendariz is the primary principal of the Forma Group. Armendariz was Norma Chavez’ administrative assistant until he quit while Chavez served at the Texas House of Representatives. When El Paso Politics asked Chavez to tell us about Armendariz, she responded that “Rick is all about the money.”
In 2007, Woody Hunt formed the Citizens for Prosperity PAC. Paul Foster and Rick Francis were part of the PAC. On June 30, 2011, David Crowder reported in the El Paso Inc. that the PAC had decided not to give money directly to the candidates it supports, rather their contributions would go directly to the Forma Group.
The Mark Smith Factor
The Cissy Lizarraga latest campaign fundraising event is being promoted by Mark A. Smith, founding partner of Mark Smith Public Affairs. Prior to forming his public relations firm in March 2010, Smith worked for Woody Hunt for about seven years. Prior to working for Hunt, Smith worked for Rick Perry and El Paso mayors William Tilney and Larry Francis.
On September 9, 2013, a protective order was filed by Emily Loomis against Mark Smith. Loomis, who appears to have worked for Smith, alleged in the protective order that Smith was “stalking” her.
Smith And Marisa Marquez
On December 8, 2012, Mark Smith sent a text message to Armando Rodriguez, a former Canutillo ISD Board President, advising Rodriguez that he could “get Marisa [Marquez] to run interference” for Rodriguez for “13,500 per month” with a six-month contract.
Marisa Marquez joined the Forma Group in 2016.
On May 10, 2017, Lizarraga loaned her campaign $20,000, according to her May 11, 2017 financial disclosure. Then on June 28, 2018, Lizarraga again loaned her campaign another $5,000, according to her July 17, 2018 campaign report.
In January of this year, she reported another loan for $10,000. On her financial disclosure from January 13, 2021, Cissy Lizarraga listed another $10,000 loan under Schedule E. The listed loan is undated and has no information as to the source of the loan.
On October 26, 2018, Lizarraga reported making a payment from her campaign funds towards her outstanding loans. According to her campaign disclosure dated October 29, 2018, Lizarraga paid $24,548.16 towards her loans.
In her latest financial disclosure form, Lizarraga reports an outstanding loan of $10,000 and $3,265.23 in her campaign coffers.
Readers will note that the seven major contributors to Lizarraga are part of the host committee to her upcoming fund raising event later this month.