With El Paso City Council elections less than a month away, District 6 incumbent Claudia Rodriguez has raised more than double her challengers combined, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

But Rodriguez’s reports lack key information, such as donors’ addresses and contribution dates, about the $35,760 in donations she’s received since May 2022, and where her campaign has spent that money — a possible violation of Texas campaign finance law.

In an Oct. 12 phone interview, Rodriguez said several times that “everything was done legally” in the report disclosures. When asked if she felt she’d been transparent in her campaign disclosures, Rodriguez noted that “we’re living in a very intense, very hot political climate right now,” saying that she’d withheld addresses “for the most part to protect my donors.”

“Whatever my constituents decided to donate to me is very much appreciated, and I don’t feel that their address is relevant or necessary to publish for the world to see,” she added. “I think that their name and their donation amount is (sufficient).”

In the days leading up to an election, Texas political candidates must submit campaign finance reports detailing the political contributions they’ve received and the money they’ve spent during their campaigns. Under Texas election laws, candidates or political committees must disclose donations more than $90, and include donors’ names, addresses and the dates of their donations. The same is true for campaign expenses greater than $190.

“The purpose of these laws is to enable voters to make informed decisions at the ballot box, decisions based in part on knowing the sources of financial support for candidates and political committees,” J.R. Johnson, executive director of the Texas Ethics Commission, wrote in an email. “Failure to comply with these laws can result in both civil and criminal penalties.”

While Rodriguez’s Oct. 10 and July 20 reports included donors’ names for 36 political contributions and the amount of their donations, they did not disclose donors’ addresses or the date that they donated, instead providing only their city, and in some instances, ZIP code. For two donors listed in an amended filing, Rodriguez provided only their names and contribution amounts.

El Paso Matters also identified at least two instances where the 79936 ZIP code listed for certain donors – a District 6 ZIP code that was cited for most donors – appears to be inaccurate. While the form lists the 79936 ZIP code for businessman Stanley Jobe, who donated $2,500 to Rodriguez’s campaign, a search of public records suggests that Jobe’s home and mailing addresses are on the Westside in the 79932 and 79928 ZIP codes. The El Paso Association of Contractors, which donated $5,000, also has a 79936 ZIP code in Rodriguez’s filing, despite the fact that its website’s address is in the Central El Paso ZIP code 79902.

In some cases, Rodriguez did not reveal where she’s spent her campaign money, leaving the payees’ names and addresses blank for $3,933 in what’s described as advertising expenses and $2,662 in fundraising event expenses. Rodriguez said she’d “bundled” these amounts from what were payments to multiple vendors.

It is a Class C misdemeanor to file incomplete campaign finance reports, according to Texas Election Code. Class C misdemeanors hold penalties of up to $500 in fines, but no jail time. The Texas Ethics Commission, a state agency that provides guidance on public ethics laws, also investigates complaints it receives about campaign finance violations and can impose civil penalties of up to $5,000. The TEC does not comment on specific allegations, Johnson noted.

After receiving clarification on Texas election laws from the Texas Ethics Commission, El Paso Matters contacted Rodriguez again to ask about the missing information. In an Oct. 14 text message, Rodriguez responded, “My treasurer and I are working on amendments to correct. Thank you for your concern.”

Rodriguez’s opponents, Art Fierro and Cristian Botello, included the required information in their filings. Another candidate in the District 6 race, Benjamin Leyva, did not submit a report and has not returned multiple phone calls and emails; it is unclear if he is still campaigning for the seat. 

This is Rodriguez’s second time running to represent District 6 on City Council. She first ran for office in a December 2019 special election to replace Claudia Ordaz Perez, who was departing City Council to serve as a state representative. In a campaign finance report submitted eight days before the special election, Rodriguez also omitted her donors’ addresses; another report filed in January 2020 did disclose this information.

Victoria Rossi is a women and gender issues reporter with El Paso Matters and a Report for America corps member. She has worked as a health and education journalist, an immigration paralegal, and a criminal...