Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.), known for riding topless on a camel during a lobbyist-funded junket to Qatar, tapped a convicted felon as senior adviser to his Senate exploratory committee.
Chuck Rocha will advise Gallego as he considers running to unseat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I., Ariz.), Politico reports. Rocha, who will lead Gallego’s Latino outreach efforts, was sentenced to 24 months probation and fined $2,000 in 2013 after he pleaded guilty to embezzling funds from the United Steelworkers International Union, where he served as political director. Rocha admitted to misusing a union credit card in 2008 and 2009 to pay for golf outings and Stanley Cup tickets.
Gallego’s affiliation with a known fraudster could hurt his campaign against Sinema, who renounced her Democratic party affiliation in December. Some progressives raised concerns about Rocha’s criminal history after he joined Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign in 2016. Critics said that Rocha’s crime undermined Sanders’s support for labor unions.
Gallego has yet to formally launch his Senate campaign, but the progressive has emerged as the early frontrunner for the 2024 Senate race. According to Politico, Gallego has recruited advisers for Sens. Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.) and John Fetterman (D., Pa.) in anticipation of his run against Sinema. Gallego has criticized Sinema as insufficiently progressive and accused her of "putting her own interests" ahead of Democrats and Arizonans.
Rocha said at his sentencing in 2013 that his consulting business had "largely cratered" in light of his indictment, but it has bounced back in recent years through lucrative contracts with Democrats. The Democratic National Committee paid Rocha’s firm, Solidarity Strategies, more than $830,000 during the last election cycle for a variety of consulting services, according to Federal Election Commission records. The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry, a prominent labor union, gave $100,000 to Rocha’s political action committee, Nuestro PAC, last year, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
Rocha has forged extensive ties to Gallego in recent years. The consultant launched the "Run Ruben Run" campaign in 2020 to push Gallego to run against Sinema. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Bold PAC, which Gallego chairs, gave $50,000 to Nuestro PAC last year and paid $13,000 to Solidarity Strategies. Gallego’s campaign paid $18,000 in August to Solidarity Strategies for text messaging and calling services.
Gallego and Sinema did not respond to requests for comment.