Texas Churn: The Cruz-Gelman Circle

All politics is local.

Lawrence Gelman is a prime example of that cliché. His connection is Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas. But it goes deeper. The story of their partnership encompasses political campaigns, Cambridge Analytica, loads of money, and a Supreme Court nominee. It stretches from a Texas border town to the marbled halls of the U.S. Capitol to the environs of a physician-owned hospital.

The Summer of 2015

Back in June of 2015, when he was still in the running and Trump was an outlier, Cruz visited Edinburg, TX. The town is the Hidalgo county seat and a robust Democratic stronghold. Ninety per cent of its residents are Hispanic, and just three years earlier, seventy per cent of its voters cast a ballot for Barack Obama. Winning here was improbable for a man opposed to DACA, the Affordable Care Act and all-things-Obama.

hidalgoDespite its preference for the other party, Senator Cruz traveled to Edinburg with outstretched hands and inexplicable optimism.

He arrived in Hidalgo county at the prompt of local Tea Party Republican, Dr. Lawrence Gelman, who was the CEO of the Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, a physician-owned center in Edinburg that Gelman helped procure in the 1990s.

According to a local paper, Cruz raised around $1 million during his campaign stop, an impressive load for this mostly Blue area.

Hidalgo county is situated in the Rio Grande Valley, the natural border between Texas and Mexico, and is one of the oldest Foreign Trade Zones (FTZ) in Texas, if not the entire continent.

The area is subject to draught, vegetation is limited and according to a 2009 New Yorker magazine article, it boasts the second highest health care costs in the nation. This seething expose mentions Gelman’s hospital and quotes a local surgeon who said, “the way to practice medicine has changed completely. Before, it was about how to do a good job. Now it is about ‘How much will you benefit?’”

Good Ole Boy Lawrence Gelman

Dr. Lawrence Gelman of McAllen TX.

The Gelman name is a familiar one in southernmost Texas. His alliance with the Edinburg hospital was just one of his roles. Born in Chicago, Gelman completed his residency in Lubbock, where he met his wife, Maria Esperanza, a Mexican with roots in Monterrey. According to one glowing profile, the doctor was “a second-generation Polish-American Jew whose parents barely escaped the Holocaust and found solace in America.” This same bio written  states that his spouse Maria wanted to remain near her family of origin, so the two settled in McAllen, near the border.

The couple have been married almost 40 years and are parents of four adult children: Alexander, Zina, Rachel and Sharon. Daughter Zina was born in Monterrey, giving her automatic citizenship in that country as well as the United States.

Gelman, a practicing anesthesiologist, also made a name for himself as a media manipulator. In 2013, he was the co-host of a right-wing online radio show. That same year, he authored a book asserting that the constitutional republic has been overthrown by the counter revolutionary forces of fascism. Four years later, he produced a film which declared that global warming was a hoax. His Tea Party credentials were securely established. No wonder he and Ted Cruz found deep affinity.

Cambridge Analytica and the Cruz Campaign

When the Cruz campaign rolled onto the national scene in 2015, Gelman was its fervent proponent – hosting parties, dumping funds and loaning out his daughter Zina. In July, a month after the Edinburgh fundraiser, Gelman was celebrating the efficacy of a “data vendor” called Cambridge Analytica (CA). One of the Cruz campaign staffers, a fellow named Chris Wilson, is credited with using this psychographic profiler.

But some Cruz donors expressed the most excitement about the data vendor employed by the Houston-based campaign, Cambridge Analytica, that uses “psychographic” profiling to predict potential supporters. The targeting, a brainchild of Cruz analytics director Chris Wilson, sifts voters into six personality types and tailors campaign messaging based on that profile.

“Everyone’s got their own little agendas,” said Lawrence Gelman, a Cruz donor from Texas who said he was amazed at the targeting’s “sophistication” in how it could put its finger on the pulse of each voter’s thinking. “I guess they tried to find it,” –Gant News, 15 July 2015

POLITICO wrote about the Cruz campaign and CA in early July 2015, linking it to the British firm SCL Group and one of its owners, the billionaire Robert Mercer.

The company, Cambridge Analytica, has sent staff to Cruz’s campaign headquarters in Houston to help set up an intensive data analysis operation.

Cambridge Analytica is connected to a British firm called SCL Group, which provides governments, political groups and companies around the world with services ranging from military disinformation campaigns to social media branding and voter targeting.

Cambridge Analytica is owned at least in part by the family of the press-shy New York hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, multiple sources confirmed to POLITICO. The Mercers this year provided the lion’s share of the $37 million raised by a quartet of unlimited-money super PACs supporting Cruz’s campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. Cruz’s presidential campaign has contracted with Cambridge Analytica to provide data services, and the company has had talks with at least one of those super PACs, according to sources.

Months later, Bloomberg reiterated the significance of this profile cruncher in an article titled “How Ted Cruz Engineered His Iowa Triumph”.

As Director of Research, Analytics and Digital Strategy for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, WPA Intelligence’s Founder Chris Wilson, along with WPAi Chief Research Officer Bryon Allen, helped build more than 1,800 models nationwide, propelling the campaign to a stunning win in Iowa’s primary (where they used 167 different modeled segments to target specific voter groups).  

Vote Leave Whistle Blowers Hold Press Conference

At some point, Wilson, who runs his own demographics profiling operation, called WPA Intelligence (WPAi) distanced himself from CA. However, the connection between Cambridge Analytica (CA), Chris Wilson and the Ted Cruz campaign is explicit.

Donald Trump requisitioned the firm for his own campaign once Cruz was knocked out of the running. CA came under FBI investigation after the presidential election, eventually closing its doors amid a flurry of news articles, investigations and the testimony of co-founder and whistle blower Christopher Wylie.

The Gelman Family Money

By the time Cruz dropped by for that 2015 fund-raiser, Gelman was the principal in multiple Texas corporations (22 to date); the bulk related to Doctors Hospital or some aspect of health care. However, he incorporated four new entities that year, a majority around the time Cruz visited:

The purpose of the first two entities – 631 and 3900 Investments – is a mystery. The legal address for both coincides with Gelman’s private practice, just behind the Doctors Hospital. There is no indication of the value of these investments or the type of investment. Gelman is the agent and the sole figure associated with both. These LLCs scream money-laundering, though no charge can be made without evidence. And LLCs are notoriously difficult to crack.

Trusts were set-up by the doctor and his spouse for each of his offspring with the Gelman Family Partnership. Embedded in this LP are four investment trusts, one for each of his children. These appear to coincide with two Gelman properties listed with the Hidalgo county property appraiser.

One piece contains two residences on a 900-acre parcel of brushland with an agricultural value of $2.5 million. Gelman bought the property in 2008 and gifted it to his children in 2012. The second lot was also handed to his kids the same year. Notwithstanding changes in property value, this fatherly gesture would bestow $625,000 on each kid should the one property sell for its agricultural value. That is not a lot of money, especially in Texas, and especially where one-day political fund-raisers net a cool million.

A stained glass museum is an anomaly in South Texas. These collections of fragile and extremely pricey art are usually located in big name museums like The Met or The Getty, not McAllen, Texas. The entire Gelman family are officers with the non-profit Stained Glass Museum.

The Gelman Political Donations

Lawrence Gelman once declared that he hated politics. However, he apparently loves politicians. And for the most part, these are Republican politicians. Like Ted Cruz.


Perhaps one of the glaring gifts of his largesse was daughter Zina Gelman Bash. In February 2015, Zina began working for the Cruz for President campaign, earning an insignificant sum as the Deputy Director of Policy and Communications. She was on loan from her father, as Zina was employed at his private anesthesia practice as an adviser during this time. She worked for Cruz just long enough to create political credentials and inflate her resume. After, her father rewarded Zina with a cushy position at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance with an important title (Executive Vice President) and a significantly inflated salary of $117K. (Daughter Zina will reappear in this Texas saga.)

Gelman is committed to Ted Cruz, even if he failed as a presidential candidate, and the Republican party. A survey of his 418 records at Open Secrets shows that he is a regular contributor to numerous PACs and Super PACs benefiting the GOP.

Below is a sampling of the Republican-related entities enriched by Gelman:


Interestingly, the Swift Vets & POWs for Truth PAC, which engineered the false smear campaign against Senator John Kerry in his 2004 presidential bid, is connected to the current confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Ted Cruz sits on the Republican side of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which just voted to move Kavanaughs nomination to the Senate Floor pending a reopened FBI probe.

Creative Response Concepts or CRC is the link. A powerful PR group out of Alexandria, VA, it engineered the Swift Boat campaign that Gelman helped finance 14 years ago. More recently, CRC hatched a doppelgänger theory to disprove sexual assault allegations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Kavanaugh. (See the POLITICO article)

Spearheaded by Ed Whelan, the ploy was amplified by numerous CRC employees until Whelan withdrew the accusation and apologized to the individual he named as Kavanaugh’s twin. This superb thread by NavalWarfare details the characters involved in the nefarious CRC plot.

The CRC firm and its activities tangentially dovetails with Texans Cruz and Gelman and their past and present interests including the Swift Boat scam, support for Kavanaugh, and the fight to eliminate the ACA and protect the profitability of the Gelman hospital. Adding to this last theme is the CRC’s involvement with Florida Governor Rick Scott and his PAC, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights. A 2009 Washington Post article notes that Scott used his self-funded group to run $20 million in ads blasting President Obama’s healthcare program.

Scott, like Gelman, ran his own hospital (HCA/Columbia) before he was tossed and investigated for suspected Medicare fraud. Ted Cruz, the anti-Obamacare crusader, was a forceful advocate for both Gelman and Scott.

Gelman has another pet project aligned to his interests: Border Health, a PAC that he and his physician friends have funded for at least a decade. Its mission is described in this excerpt from the Houston Press:

The border-region PAC, closely affiliated with the physician-owned Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, has long donated big bucks to politicians on both sides of the aisle, with a stated mission is to promote the medical industry along the Texas-Mexico border. For years, Border Health PAC was well known in its staunch opposition to Medicaid managed care being expanded in the Rio Grande Valley. An obscure rule passed in 2003 exempted Hidalgo County from managed care, which supporters had said was good for poorer and chronically ill patients in the area who had ultimate access to care. But critics said the lack of health-maintenance organizations have created incentives for physician-owned hospitals like Doctors Hospital to order the most costly and acutely specialized care possible, resulting in huge profits. In 2011, the Legislature dissolved the managed-care exemption, a blow to Border Health PAC — which has apparently not slowed in the slightest its lobbying in both chambers.

Gelman also tosses around money to individual candidates. Some of the more notable include Mike Lee, the Utah Senator who famously called on Donald Trump to withdraw as the GOP nominee after the “Grab ’em by the pussy” tape surfaced; Michelle Bachman, the former Minnesota Rep, avid Tea Partier and virulent opponent of immigration; and GOP brand names like Tom Delay, John Thune, George W. Bush, Phil Gramm and Arlen Specter. Most notoriously, Gelman opened his purse to Roy Moore, the accused pedophile who lost his bid to take over Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat.

In 2007 and 2008, Gelman donated to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It looks like 2009 was his turning point. The Affordable Care Act was made law in early 2010, and given the profiteering reputation of Gelman’s hospital, this probably solidified his opposition to all things Democrat.

NEXT: Zina and John Bash

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