One recent New Mexico headline concerns Armando Gutierrez who was sentenced to ten years of prison for “his role in bilking more than $2.5 million in federal voter education funds awarded to the state.” (1)
It’s a particularly sad turn of affairs because Gutierrez is an uncommonly gifted fellow. He holds an earned PhD and has taught political science at the Universities of Texas, Austin, Houston, and Jackson State. In the 1970s, he hosted a radio program on the Mexican American experience. He’s authored or coauthored numerous books, among them The Socialization of Militancy: Chicanos in a South Texas Town and, more recently, One Question Only: A Taxpayers Manifesto and, for a while, maintained a blog.
He has real-life, practical experience, too, leaving academia to build a Hispanic-targeted advertising agency, A. Gutierrez and Associates, which has run marketing campaigns for major companies such as Burger King, Chrysler, Saturn Automotive, Columbia TriStar Pictures, and the National Association of Broadcasters. And he has been a highly successful political consultant for major Democrat politicians: Clinton and Gore during their mid 1990s re-election campaign, Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in the 1980s, and in the last decade worked for Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, not to mention a host of other locals. Even if your political sympathies lie elsewhere, it is impossible to deny that the man is intelligent and accomplished.
His gifts were honed during years of radical, political activism. Not only was Gutierrez good friends with the founder of Raza Unida but he was a Raza Unida Texas state vice-chair in 1974.
Raza Unida was a political party conceived in Crystal City, Texas in 1970. At first, it focused on local elections of Chicanos throughout the Southwest and enjoyed substantial success. By the end of the decade, however, the party was more concerned about the “Liberation of Aztlan,” an area that comprised California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado, and an open, ideological embrace of Revolutionary-Nationalism (a form of Marxism particular to a given country) and moved largely on the fringes. Activists blamed – no doubt with some justification – their marginalization on the political machinations of the dominant parties but, of course, that was only a part of the story.
Over the years Gutierrez’ views matured but retained its basic perimeters, which was not averse to touting Marxism but was more actively engaged with challenging contemporary U.S. politics. Writing more than a quarter of a century after the founding of Raza Unida, he says, for example: “Though my criticism of the major parties has changed little in the subsequent 40 years, not I nor most of my fellow Raza Unida adherents were naïve about the consequences of Republican control at the national level. Despite our legitimate criticism of the Democrats (those criticisms are largely relevant even today) we knew that the Republican Party, particularly in the form of Richard Nixon, represented all that was wrong with our nation and, more importantly, all that would eventually lead to its downfall.” (2)
So, what happened? He used Help America Vote Act money to pay cash to buy a home in Corpus Christi, Texas, which seems like incongruous behavior for a committed idealist. This isn’t the opportunistic brother of an activist, nailing the coffin of Wade Rathke’s ACORN, but the man himself.
Of course, greed and hypocrisy are bi-partisan. Finding them among clay-footed mortals of any persuasion – Catholic, Buddhist, Tea Party, or Green Party – is inevitable…and tragic. And a cautionary to us all.
(1) Colleen Heild, “Former consultant gets 10 years,” Albuquerque Journal, 8-20-13.