News · Press Release

CBP ‘Reviewing’ Tony Gonzales’ ‘Unethical and Possibly Illegal’ TV Ads

Gonzales “enlisted a volunteer to dress as a U.S. Border Patrol agent in campaign ads… a move experts called unethical and possibly illegal.”

Hapless TX-23 Republican nominee Tony Gonzales may have violated the law by using a fake Border Patrol agent, according to a bipartisan group of experts in a new San Antonio Express-News report.

And Gonzales’ bumbling attempt to tout his pro-wall credentials hasn’t just put him on the wrong side of ethics experts, but also on the opposite side of the border wall issue itself with voters in this district.

With President Trump’s costly and ineffective wall stealing land from families and raiding funding from Texas military bases, it’s a proposal that even TX-23’s incumbent GOP congressman opposes.

“This isn’t surprising from Tony Gonzales, who has already been caught breaking the rules by taking corporate donations for his campaign,” DCCC spokesman Avery Jaffe said. “Tony’s latest ethical lapse is a new low but he’ll do anything to embrace President Trump and his wasteful, ineffective border wall that is stealing private land from families and raiding money from Texas military bases.”

Key Points:

San Antonio Express-News: San Antonio congressional candidate used faux Border Patrol agent in TV ads

By Cayla Harris

September 3, 2020

  • “Tony Gonzales, the Republican candidate in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, enlisted a volunteer to dress as a U.S. Border Patrol agent in campaign ads during his primary race — a move experts called unethical and possibly illegal.”
  • CBP officials did not respond to a request for comment beginning Monday but said its legal team was reviewing the matter. The FEC declined to comment, citing a federal provision requiring confidentiality “in light of the possibility that this issue may come before the agency in an enforcement capacity.”
  • “Legal or not, experts say the imagery in the ad wrongly implied that the agency supports Gonzales’ candidacy.
  • ‘Any time you make an agency appear to be an arm of one party or another, it makes it harder for that agency to do their job,’ said Peter Loge, the director of the Project on Ethics in Political Communication at George Washington University.”
  • Loge said Gonzales’ appearance with the fake officer is “obviously something he shouldn’t have done.”
  • “Shortly after Hearst Newspapers asked the campaign about the ads, the videos were no longer available on Gonzales’ official campaign website, and the YouTube account housing them was closed.”
  • “It certainly appears to be an official uniform, but even creating the impression is, from an ethical viewpoint, highly problematic for Gonzales,” said Cris Feldman, a longtime political attorney based in Houston who represents the Harris County Democratic Party.”
  • “Austin attorney Roger Borgelt, a former vice chair of the Travis County Republican Party, said the Gonzales campaign “is trying to imply some kind of approval by the Border Patrol by having him shaking hands with this guy in his official uniform.” Any potential violation would have to be enforced by the federal agency, he said, adding, “It looks like the Border Patrol could go after that.”
  • Conservatives on social media have also called out Gonzales’ use of the faux border agent in political ads. In February, El Conservador asked whether the portrayal was deceptive or illegal and called on Gonzales to explain the incident. Gonzales’ Republican primary opponent, Raul Reyes, also questioned the ads in a short campaign video.”


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