Before Congress, Rep. Ruben Gallego boosted a migrant bank plan that crumbled

Carlos .Sierra said he and Gallego were trying to sell a banking concept and didn’t know of its problems or those of, Partisan Alliance Corp..

By Ronald J. Hansen || The Arizona Republic

Rep. Ruben Gallego, before he ran for Congress, was a state lawmaker and political consultant who wanted to recall then-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, in part because of his regular raids on undocumented immigrants.

Gallego, D-Ariz., and an ally met Joseph J. Carrillo, a Phoenix resident who told them in 2013 he wanted to do even more for that community. He wanted undocumented people to have a bank that wanted to work with them.

Gallego wanted in. He worked closely with Carlos Sierra, a well-connected political consultant then based in Arizona, and quickly found influential allies for the idea.

Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who had a banking background, was interested, as were former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and others.

But Carrillo’s potential allies, who had varying experience in banking and finance, didn’t want Carrillo to play a prominent role in running the bank he envisioned.

Carrillo didn’t stand down, and his idea disintegrated. Not long afterward, Arizona regulators shut down Carrillo’s business, which illegally sold shares to investors before and after Gallego’s tenure in 2013 and 2014.

It is a brief and largely unknown chapter in Gallego’s career before Congress, a period when he was mostly known as a state lawmaker and a political activist. The failed business venture came as Gallego tried to help change economic conditions in a needy community in a way that could have brought him wealth as well.

Gallego, who is running for the Senate seat now held by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., said through a spokesperson that he focused on running for Congress after the banking idea fell through.

“Ruben was inspired to help create a bank for underserved Latino communities, who were being denied access to mortgages because they didn’t have credit scores,” said Rebecca Katz, Gallego’s campaign consultant. “When the project’s leadership struggles became apparent, Ruben left and found new ways to serve and expand economic opportunities for working families.”

Sierra said he and Gallego were trying to sell Carrillo’s banking concept and didn’t know of Carrillo’s problems or those of the company he operated, Partisan Alliance Corp.

In an interview, Carrillo agreed. He said he tasked them with selling the idea of banking people who were responsible but couldn’t qualify for standard loans. Gallego helped Carrillo understand the political side of a complex business idea.

“It got pretty far,” a rueful Carrillo remembered. “It was fairly well developed. I just got caught up in the money.”


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March 2023