Dario Marques Jr., former government contractor and major contributor to Virginia Democratic Party poohbahs, has come under fire from Virginia progressives for his role in running an Arizona shelter for unaccompanied children who crossed the border illegally. Although Marques’ contract originated in 2014 during the Obama administration, work continued into the Trump administration — and any association with Trump, no matter how tangential, is more toxic than kepone.
Naturally, any attack from the Left is grist for the Mainstream Media, and this particular controversy has occasioned a lengthy article written by WCVE radio and disseminated by the Associated Press. This blue-on-blue political hit illustrates the asymmetries at work within the Democratic Party today. With its access to the Mainstream Media megaphone, left-wing activists keep moderate Democrats on the defensive and push the party to the Left.
A handful of local left-wing activists are calling for Democrats to distance themselves from Marquez, whose proximity to detention policies they say calls into question the politicians’ commitment to reform. La ColectiVa and two other groups, Justice for Muslims Collective and Showing Up for Racial Justice Northern Virginia, launched a petition on July 17 calling for Virginia Democrats to stop accepting Marquezs’ donations, and launch an investigation into federal contractors profiting from ICE contracts, among other demands.
Over the past decade Marquez has contributed a half million dollars to Democratic politicians in Virginia, including Sen. Tim Kaine, Gov. Ralph Northam, and Attorney General Mark Herring. A Kaine spokesman delicately distanced the senator from Marquez, declaring that Kaine stands against Trump’s “heartless” immigration policies,” and believes that Marques’ company MVM Inc. and everyone everyone else providing transportation to these children “must be held to the highest standards.”
Marquez was sworn in as an agent of the Secret Service in 1972. In 1979, he and two other ex-Secret Service agents formed MVM in Anaheim, California, before relocating the company to Northern Virginia. The company won contracts protecting U.S. embassies, and then provided security to CIA and NSA personnel in war zones. Writes WCVE:
MVM’s 2014 contract with ICE occurred in the wake of an influx in unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America. Marquez says the group provided transportation to youth from detention facilities run by federal law enforcement to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS).
“While we do not agree with this administration’s immigration policies, we believe the program enacted during the Obama Administration was compassionate and follow(ed) the guidelines stipulated in the Flores Agreement,” Marquez said, referring to a court case that set conditions on the federal government’s detention of immigrant youth.
The Hispanic entrepreneur stepped down as MVM’s CEO in 2015 and sold his investments in the company. MVM operated without controversy until family separation became a heated partisan issue under the Trump administration. Last year Reveal, the Center for Investigative Reporting, brought attention to problems created by the surge of minors coming across the border. As summarized by WCVE, a neighbor observed an influx of immigrants clad in blue sweatsuits being escorted inside a Phoenix office space rented by MVM. The building had not been licensed as a childcare facility — a requirement for facilities that handle children who are unaccompanied by a parent or guardian for less than 24 hours.
Marquez has become increasingly involved in Virginia politics in recent years, contributing $30,000 to Tom Perriello, the left-wing challenger to Ralph Northam for the Democratic Party nomination, and $120,000 to Win Virginia, a PAC Periello headed after his primary defeat. Marquez donated $500,000 to Virginia Democrats in all, including to Northam, through June 30, 2018, while his wife Wendy contributed another $127,000. Dario Marquez serves on the Secure Commonwealth Panel, a group focused on emergency preparation and homeland security, while Wendy Marquez serves on the George Mason University Board of Visitors.
Melissa McKenney, a Democratic activist with the progressive group Together We Will Henrico, told WCVE: “I think that anybody who’s profiting off the system or is directly part of the system can be asked to do better.”
McKenney and Danny Cendejas (with Arlington-based La ColectiVa) said Democratic lawmakers had a track record of saying they stood for migrant rights while voting to fund federal agencies that enables abuses. Said Cendejas: “If these elected officials truly stand for migrant rights, they would not be collaborating in any way or having any relationships with contractors and collaborators of ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and Border Patrol.”
Kaine and Sen. Mark Warner have moved to the left on the family separation issue. Last week, according to WCVE, they introduced a bill that would end family separations and bar private contractors from operating new Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters or influx facilities.
Bacon’s bottom line: There are two levels to this story. The visible level is the fabricated controversy surrounding Marques. Did MVM do something heinous that requires mainstream Democratic politicians to distance themselves from him? No. He signed a contract during the Obama administration, which carried into the Trump administration. Due to a confluence of factors, the contract coincided with a surge in minors illegally crossing the border and overwhelming the system for transporting and transporting and sheltering them. The WCVE article presents no evidence that MVM mistreated anyone. In effect, Marques is being judged guilty for his accidental and tenuous association with Trump, to whom he didn’t give a dime and undoubtedly did not vote for.
Marques has been a generous donor to Virginia Democrats, and even to left-wing Democrat Tom Perriello. But that hasn’t insulated him from left-wing criticism. As routinely happens, the Left is consuming its own.
The other level of the story is how the story came to be told in the first place, and what it says about Virginia’s political economy today. Virginia’s mainstream news media is highly attuned to emanations from left-wing activist groups, advocacy groups, and think tanks. As commercially supported newsrooms have shrunk, the nonprofit WCVE, part of the National Public Radio system in Virginia, has beefed up its journalistic coverage. Sympathetic to leftist causes celebres (though perhaps no more so than than its commercial counterparts) the Community Ideas Stations routinely hand the media megaphone over to obscure left-wing groups. Conservative/libertarian perspectives get no such treatment . Public radio reporting of left-wing issues then gets amplified by the Associated Press, which distributes articles to Virginia’s newspapers for re-publication.
In this way, Virginia’s elected officials are subjected to a continuous barrage of left-wing talking points on a wide range of issues, whereas conservative and libertarian perspectives are ignored. As I have said before, the answer is not to squelch leftist viewpoints or infringe upon the freedom of the press. But conservatives had better create an alternative media or the Left will enjoy untrammeled power to frame issues and set agendas.There are currently no comments highlighted.