The Militant Libertarian

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Huckabee offered 'no-cost' deal for Mexican Consulate

Developer confirms role, legislator raps ex-governor for using taxpayer funds for illegals
by Jerome R. Corsi, © 2007
An Arkansas commercial developer confirmed his role in a no-cost "incentive deal" packaged by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to attract a Mexican Consulate to Little Rock.

Meanwhile, an Arkansas legislator expressed concern that Huckabee used taxpayer funds inappropriately in a plan ultimately designed to assist illegal immigrants in Arkansas.

Bruce Burrow told WND his commercial real estate company acquired the land and developed the Mexican consulate building in Little Rock at the request of Huckabee, in a deal the then-governor engineered to make sure he snared the Mexican consulate away from other states.

"I agreed to do the project at no cost," Burrow told WND, confirming his involvement in the Huckabee plan.

Arkansas Republican state legislator Rick Green objected to Huckabee using taxpayer funds in the scheme.

"I'd like to sit down with Huckabee and visit with him on the issue and see if there is anything he can tell me on the Mexican consulate deal that I am not seeing," Green told WND in a telephone interview.

"But I have not seen any argument Huckabee has made that convinces me that the Mexican consulate deal was the right thing to do," he said.

"Any taxpayer money that is used to help facilitate breaking the law is wrong," Green emphasized.

WND previously reported Robert Trevino, commissioner of the Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, had signed a lease providing the Mexican Consulate space in an Arkansas Rehabilitations Services building at a cost of $1 per year. The lease provided the consulate temporary space until permanent space could be found.

Green told WND that two legislative study groups he helped organize this past summer concluded Arkansas has more illegal immigrants per capita than any other state and that its Hispanic illegal immigrant population is the fastest growing of any state in the nation.

Burrow detailed to WND how he became involved in financing the Mexican Consulate office in Little Rock.

"In a trip to Mexico, Governor Huckabee had agreed with (then-Mexican President) Vicente Fox to work with the Mexican government to establish that facility in Arkansas in the capital city of Little Rock," Burrow said.

"But since there was really no government mechanism for the state to go and acquire that property and then to go and turn around and lease to the Mexican government, it had to be done by private enterprise," he continued.

"That's where I got involved," Burrow admitted. "That's what we do. We own a number of properties and we're a developer.

"So we agreed to do it at no profit," Burrow said. "And that's what I did. I acquired the property, renovated it for the Mexican government."

The entire project cost about $1.2 million, Burrow recalled.

"I think that we paid south of $500,000 for the existing facility which was a former doctor's office," he said. "Then I went in and renovated it completely to meet their needs and their specifications. "We spent probably another $700,000 renovating, so probably about $1.2 million for the project all in."

WND asked Burrow why Huckabee felt the urgency to offer the Mexican government such a good deal.

"What had happened, as I understand it," Burrow explained, "is that Governor Huckabee had met with President Fox in a trip. Huckabee kind of wrestled the Mexican Consulate office away from our surrounding larger states. ...."

"From day one, the Mexican government paid us rent on the property," he added, "and the Mexican government has the right to purchase the property and the Mexican consulate office here in Little Rock. I can't remember the exact dates, but I'm assuming the Mexican government will go ahead and acquire the property."

Burrow acquired land near the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, at 3500 South University, an address adjacent to a Bank of America branch bank.

"We estimated that $410 million per year from Arkansas is sent back to Mexico alone, just in remittance payments," Green noted.

Since 2005, Bank of America has advertised "SafeSend," a nationwide "free remittance to Mexico" program designed to send money to Mexico without charging fees.

WND also reported receiving a copy of a check from the city of Little Rock, dated June 1, paying contractor Baldwin and Shell $60,000 for two invoices, dated April 30 and May 31, in conjunction with the contract for the Mexican Consulate.

Burrow confirmed that Baldwin & Shell was the contractor he hired to renovate the consulate building.

He also explained the Little Rock check.

"That Little Rock check was paid as 'economic development,'" Burrow told WND. "As I understand how that worked, Governor Huckabee talked with the city of Little Rock about how they could provide an incentive basis for the Mexican government to decide to put the Mexican Consulate for Little Rock.

"So, Little Rock put up $50,000 from the city under their economic development fund," Burrow continued, "and $10,000 came from the state economic development fund."

The check, then, reflects a total of $60,000 invested by the city, but $10,000 was paid by Huckabee out of the state fund, he said.

"I can't remember exactly how the development money was flowed into the project," he added, "but anyway it all went into the project. It may have been for the demolition portion, or whatever, but it was applied to the project."

The government contributions then reduced the total redevelopment cost by $60,000, Burrow said.

"From my perspective, it reduced the acquisition cost by $60,000," he explained, "and that was the economic incentive to the Mexican government.

"We had to do it that way, once Governor Huckabee realized the deal could not be completely done by the state government but had to be a private enterprise deal," he said.

Burrow confirmed a WND report that a July 21, 2006, memo from Trevino's as commissioner of the Arkansas Rehabilitations Service suggested that the deal, even after Huckabee decided to involve private commercial developers, would be financed by a consortium of Arkansas companies, such that Mexico would have no costs for three years to support the Little Rock consulate.

"But all that got changed, that Mexico wasn't going to pay any expenses for three years," Burrow explained. "Once the project got over into our ownership – and there's probably not any documents in the file in that regard – but we decided there had to be a lease agreement, and the Mexican government has been paying the rent from day one."

Nevertheless, he emphasized, "I agreed to do the project at no cost."

"I am out my time and expenses, but I am happy to do that," Burrow said. "We were able to get the Mexican Consulate in Little Rock instead of it going to Oklahoma City or Memphis or Nashville, so it was a great economic thing for us.

"We have and awful lot of Hispanic workers in the state," he continued, "and I grew up in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood in California. So, I felt if we could assist in any way that we would."

WND asked Burrow if Huckabee wanted to provide Mexico incentives because having the Mexican Consulate in Little Rock would help attract low-cost Hispanic workers to the state.

"The Mexican Consulate was never considered an inducement for any illegal aliens to come into the state," he protested. "The Mexican government placed the consulate here simply to handle the representation of their citizens in this part of the mid-South area. The Mexican government has done everything they said they would do, and I am very satisfied with the situation."

Green, however, expressed concern.

"We're an agricultural state, and a poultry producing state," he said. "That's where we get the argument that there would not be enough people to fill the jobs if every illegal was deported from the state of Arkansas."

Still, this was not enough to satisfy Green.

"Even if that were the case," he countered, "you still have to be willing to obey the law.

"We've got to look at reforming the welfare system too," Green added. "If enough able-body people were put to work from welfare, there would be plenty of people to fill all the jobs available in Arkansas."

Burrow boasted, "By all accounts, the Mexican Consulate has been successful. There's been a huge backlash and a huge discussion about the illegals in this country, and somebody has to serve these people, legal or illegal, and to provide advice and to represent them in a foreign land, and I think that's what these consulate offices do."

WND previously reported Trevino confirmed in a telephone interview the authenticity of the $1-per-year lease he arranged for the Mexican Consulate to occupy space in the Arkansas Rehabilitations Services government building.

WND also reported Trevino, then serving as economic development adviser to Huckabee, accompanied the governor to Mexico on the initial trip in which the financial incentives were offered.

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