© 2024 Allbritton Journalism Institute
Henry Cuellar
Rep. Henry Cuellar was indicted over charges of bribery and money laundering. Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Henry Cuellar Is Losing Staff After His Indictment

Two of the Texas Democrat’s top staffers have quit, adding to a pile of legal troubles.

In the last 10 days, Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar has been indicted on bribery charges, had a woman allegedly connected to the bribery scheme plead guilty and had a former staffer agree to cooperate with the government against him.

He’s also now lost two senior staff members.

Jacob Hochberg, his former chief of staff, resigned from Cuellar’s office three days after the Texas congressman was indicted on May 3 over charges of bribery and money laundering. Over the weekend, his campaign fundraiser, Vanessa Ide, also quit.

Cuellar, whose office did not respond to a request for comment on the recent departures, was indicted on allegations that he and his wife received $600,000 from the government of Azerbaijan, according to court documents. Cuellar and his wife have claimed they’re innocent and pleaded not guilty in their first court appearance.

Hochberg resigned three days after news broke of the congressman’s indictment. His unemployment didn’t last long, however, as Dallas Democrat Jasmine Crockett hired him to serve as her new chief of staff. Hochberg did not respond to a request for comment.

Ide becomes the latest Cuellar staffer to step down, and the first from the campaign side, as first reported by Punchbowl News. Ide, who also did not respond to a request for comment, fundraised for Cuellar through her company, Demand Elections, where she serves as the CEO. In addition to her role with the Cuellar campaign, she also works as a fundraiser for Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle.

In just the 2024 cycle, Ide and Demand Elections received nearly $80,000 from Cuellar’s campaign. Hochberg also received close to $10,000 from Texans for Cuellar in the last year, according to Open Secrets.

The departures weren’t the only bad news for Cuellar.

Colin Strother, another former chief of staff for Cuellar and a longtime adviser, reportedly made a deal to cooperate with the government in the case against the Cuellars. And Lencho Rendon, a former chief of staff to Texas Democrat Solomon Ortiz — who served in Congress until 2011 — has also reportedly agreed to cooperate.

Additionally, the San Antonio Express-News reported on Monday that a Houston woman, Irada Akhoundova, has already pleaded guilty to the alleged bribery scheme.


Ryan Hernández is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.