While on the campaign trail Beto O’Rourke touts that he’s a regular drive-thru loving guy. But that’s leaving out the half of the story where he married into a monied family and tried to buy all the land in his hometown.
In 2005 the El Paso Democrat married Amy Sanders, the daughter of real estate developer William D. Sanders who is valued at over $20 billion.
In a 2006 city counsel proposal, William Sanders suggested redeveloping 300 acres of downtown El Paso with restaurants, shops and art galleries.
At the time O’Rourke was a member of the city council and represented the neighborhood that his now father-in-law was taking interest in.
O’Rourke voted in favor of the plan and continuously worked to advance the project over the course of the next couple of years. This is despite outcry from many barrio residents as well as business owners who accused Beto of having a conflict of interest.
The redevelopment was spearheaded by the nonprofit organization Paso del Norte Group, which had 300 leaders from El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The organization received city funding and a federal grant to meet it’s goals while membership was invitation-only both O’Rourke and his future wife Amy Sanders were members.
The reconstruction was contingent on being able to persuade property owners to turn over their holdings to a private trust. Those who declined got an even worse deal as eminent domain would be used to acquire their land.
Disgruntled business owners eventually came together as the Land Grab Opponents and filed an ethics complaint with the city. The complaint stated that O’Rourke had a financial stake in the project as his company Stanton Street Technology Group had provided services to Paso Del Norte Group.
Despite these ties the complaint was turned down by the city ethics committee.
Lawyer for the Land Grab Opponents, Stuart Blaugrund reported to the New York Times, “He ultimately recused himself and did the right thing, but it seemed to me to be unnecessary for us to have to generate such ire among his constituents in the interim period,” Blaugrund said. “Even if he didn’t have an actual conflict, the optics were terrible.”
The plan was abandoned in part because of a 2009 state ballot initiative that prohibited employing eminent domain to take property for private use.
It seems Beto O’Rourke isn’t such a regular guy after all.