The Election Connection

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New records from the November election reveal machines at more than A THIRD of the 782 polls broke down that day. By now the systematic screwups are obvious. But what happened at one east side poll has now sparked a separate investigation by Dolcefino Consulting into the election connection.

Claudia Aguirre is a powerful woman. Just ask the charity she runs.

Because they made a whole video about her ability to make other women powerful too.

“I am Claudia Aguirre, and I am the President and CEO of BakerRipley in Houston,” said Aguirre.

The politically connected East End charity is 116 years old, and its ties to Judge Lina Hidalgo run deep.

Hidalgo’s former chief of chief, the guy in that failed congressional campaign ad, was the director of immigration and economic opportunity at BakerRipley.

Before he became Hidalgo’s chief of staff, her right-hand man.

Then he was busted in that COVID contract scandal with two other members of the county judge’s staff.

Hidalgo has been on the warpath about the D.A. ever since.

“I don’t know what the fuck she’s threatened you with,” exclaimed Hidalgo.

Aguirre became the President of BakerRipley before covid hit, but we were in the throes of the pandemic when she appeared on Channel 2.

“Our number one priority right now is getting people fed. Getting people rental assistance,” claimed Aguirre in an interview.

And the Hidalgo administration has awarded gobs of money to BakerRipley, first under the cares act then under the American Rescue Plan. 164.3 million dollars in just three years.

Taxpayers helped fuel a staggering increase in the charity’s revenue. BakerRipley’s latest tax return in 2021 reported $583 million in revenue. There are transactions with offshore accounts and investments in Central America.

“I know what it is like to struggle,” claimed Aguirre.

Maybe in the old days, but while so many were struggling with the consequences of covid, you weren’t told the BakerRipley CEO was raking in the dough.

In 2019, the year before covid hit, Aguirre made a salary of $310,115. This year she makes $479,755 and that’s just her salary. With benefits, it tops half a million.

Her compensation from the charity has gone up 54 percent since COVID. How about yours?

It was Angela Blanchard who transformed the former neighborhood centers into the huge non-profit BakerRipley is today, she retired way back in 2017. She said she would do special projects when the charity board asked.

We asked what she’d done, and the charity refused to tell us. We asked because since 2018, she’s been paid more than a million dollars. The biggest chunk coming in the 2020.

Harris County eviction courts were still packed this Spring.

But the Harris County Administration Office tells us Baker Ripley has already provided rental assistance to 18,000 households in a two-year period.  

But when you probe deeper, Lina Hidalgo’s administration clamps a veil of secrecy.

Rental assistance averaged around $4,731 a family, but we noticed one family of four was given $47,000 taxpayer dollars on one day. Harris County says their identity will be kept a secret.

“We should be able to answer any question you’ve got,” said County Commissioner Tom Ramsey.

“Until there’s transparency then there’s suspicion,” continued Ramsey.

Those were the TV headlines last September, when an outside audit found shocking evidence of fraud and abuse in the first batch of taxpayer money given to BakerRipley under the Cares Act.

Hundreds of landlords were overpaid, hundreds of thousands of dollars misspent.

BakerRipley routinely paid rent for months not even owed. Didn’t even check if people were getting money from other housing programs.

One county official told us the audit results were pathetic, but the hidalgo administration has rewarded BakerRipley since then with another $136 million.

To safeguard your money spent on the American Rescue Plan by BakerRipley, Harris County hired a firm called Boston Consulting Group from up north. More of your money. But Boston Consulting Group won’t even let us come to their office to ask questions.

They have been awarded $32 million and already have spent $12.6 million of your dollars to date.

And Lina Hidalgo’s administration, you guessed it, they are hiding any compliance reviews done by the company on the expensive rental assistance program at BakerRipley.

This is the Interim County Administrator, the public servant you pay a bunch of money to make sure a lot of our COVID rescue money is spent properly. The perfect person to ask.

“Diana, can we coordinate a time to talk to you? We’ve been trying to get answers for quite a while. Can we? Ma’am?” asked Dolcefino Consulting’s Brian Collister.

Why are we putting a spotlight on BakerRipley and their use of COVID rescue dollars? Because of the growing mystery surrounding the November election.

We now know from interviews and research that the polling location at BakerRipley opened four hours late on election day. No poll opened later.

“We didn’t have the things to get the machines going. I have never seen nothing like it before,” said Jon Ether.

Jon Ether was the precinct judge at that BakerRipley poll, he had told the election administration he had no transportation. No way to get supplies.

At 6:30 that morning, the doors at the poll were locked. Ether and the alternate judge finally found a way in. But there were no campaign workers, none of the voting machines were set up. And the key to turn them on, once they were set up, was missing.

“As disorganized as that was it just wasn’t worth it,” expressed Ether.

“How do I describe it? To me it was a disgrace,” expressed Cynthia Ducommun.

What happened at the BakerRipley poll could just be the product of the sheer incompetence of Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum.

He’s been hiding the truth from voters, concealing his communications on election day months after being ordered by the Attorney General to release them.

We caught up with him in Austin.

“Clifford, Wayne Dolcefino has a message for you and that is sunshine. What are you so afraid of people finding out?” asked Collister.

But since BakerRipley’s funding is so tied to the democrats in control in Harris County, the suspicion is mounting.

“I think it is disgusting,” expressed Cynthia Ducommun.

“You think it happened on purpose,” asked Wayne Dolcefino. Cynthia replied, “I believe it did.”

“I think it’s suspicious too,” expressed Cindy Seigel.

I can hear the critics now. Cindy Siegel is Republican Party Chairwoman, a partisan.

“So, it looks suspicious?” asked Dolcefino.  Mark Jones replied, “it looks suspicious.”

But this is Mark Jones, the political science professor at Rice University, who says the BakerRipley connection cannot be ignored.

“Completely tied to money that comes from Lina Hidalgo and other liberal activities, so this was going to be their ace in the hole,” continued Jones.

Jones suspects what happened here was orchestrated in advance. Monitors from the liberal Texas Organizing Project just happened to be there, already on the declarations for voters to sign.

That was evidence used in court hours later to get the vote extended by one hour for all polls.

“It could be coincidence, but the fact that it was BakerRipley, that top was there, and they were ready to get that out suggests to me that Rodney Ellis had already arranged that or someone else,” stated Jones.

In the first election challenge that’s went to court, lawyers for judicial candidate Erin Lunceford accused democratic lawyers of lying to the judge who extended the voting an hour.

They told her ballot paper problems were being addressed.

We now know 68 polls were allowed to run out of paper and forced to turn away voters.

Most in places Republicans usually win, but BakerRipley is a poll where 75% of the votes were going to Democrats.

They had plenty of ballot paper when more ballot paper showed up there.

“And then they brought us paper close to like 4 o’clock like stacks of paper. I said I didn’t request it or order it.  We have more than enough paper,” recalled Cynthia Ducommun.

It almost seemed like someone was planning for a possible last-minute surge in voters. The hearing to extend voting hadn’t even happened yet.

“I have never viewed myself as a conspiracy theorist, but when you have those things happen you have to wonder why,” stated Seigel.

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