Firm tied to backer of South Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar paid for ad calling his rival a 'home wrecker'

That firm that reportedly bought the ad is linked to a Laredo businessman who's pumped tens of thousands into Cuellar's campaigns.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar speaks at the groundbreaking for a business park being developed by backer David Killiam. - Facebook / U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar
Facebook / U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar speaks at the groundbreaking for a business park being developed by backer David Killiam.
With early voting underway in a runoff that could end the reign of longtime South Texas Democrat U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a billboard has popped up labeling his progressive challenger in the race a "home wrecker," the Express-News reports.

The Laredo billboard features the words "Jessica Cisneros is a home wrecker" stamped over the face of the 28-year-old immigration attorney who's challenging Cuellar in the May 24 runoff.  The daily also reports that text messages sent from a now-disconnected number accuse Cisneros of "knowingly sleeping with a married man" and asking recipients to forward the accusation to others.

Both the billboard and the reported text message appear to reference a New York Post article from March that alleged Cisneros had a relationship with a 40-year-old married man — her former high school teacher — when she was in college.

In a statement to the Express-News, Cisneros accused Cuellar, a nine-term conservative Democrat whose district stretches from Laredo to San Antonio, of trying to bully and intimidate her.

A former intern in Cuellar's office, Cisneros ran a tight 2020 race against the incumbent and has been aided by high-profile endorsements from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the nation's best-recognized progressive political figures, is expected to rally with her Friday in San Antonio.

In a statement, Cuellar said he doesn't condone the billboard and is running an "issues based campaign." However, the Express-News, citing federal records, reports that Big River Media — a firm with multiple ties to the congressman — bought the billboard.

Laredo businessman David Killiam, a major Cuellar donor, is listed as Big River's registered agent in Webb County records, the daily also notes.

Killiam has flowed nearly $23,000 into Cuellar's campaigns since the late '90s, according to data from nonpartisan campaign-finance researcher OpenSecrets. The businessman has also donated heavily to GOP candidates including Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. John Cornyn and former President Donald Trump.

Further, Cuellar's campaign spent $1,500 with Big River for advertising during his 2020 reelection bid, the Express-News reports, citing election records, and the ad firm also spent $5,263 this month backing Cuellar's current campaign.

In a May 2 Facebook post, Cuellar announced that he'd helped land a "$3 million grant" for the Mission Economic Development Corp. to aid Killiam's real-estate firm in developing a 175-acre business park in South Texas. The congressman posted pictures of himself at the groundbreaking.

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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