Earlier this year, Southwest Key Programs, a children detention center, was planned to be placed in Houston. After months of permit processes, Southwest Key Programs sued the City of Houston for “illegally” stopping the organization from opening the children detention center. Recently, Mayor Sylvester Turner rejected a settlement offer from Southwest Key programs.
While this process has been contentious, Jeff Eller, a spokesperson for the children detention center, has been an overlooked common thread in these discussions.
The Jeff Eller Group, a crisis management firm, does a decent job of outlining the basics of Eller’s political connections. The “leadership” section of the website says he did “communications strategies for multiple leading corporations in high-profile crisis situations, including the Firestone tire recall and the GM ignition switch issue.”
The website also states:
“Eller began working for then-Governor Clinton in December 1991; first as Florida state campaign director, and then as political communications director for the national campaign. He has been involved in numerous congressional and Senate campaigns, and worked for two members of Congress. Serving in the Clinton White House as deputy assistant to the president and director of media affairs, Eller oversaw all regional and specialty media relations, as well as radio and television services.
Prior to these political roles, Eller was an award-winning television and radio journalist.”
Wikileaks released The Podesta Emails in 2016, and in it was email correspondence with Eller regarding his career where he says he has worked with Goldman Sachs, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman. The last two are widely known war profiteers.
Per the resume, Eller was a reporter up until 1985 with ABC when he was a news anchor covering federal court, elections, and high profile events. After his time in corporate media, he transitioned to press secretary for Congressman Bill Boner and thus began his “crisis management” for corporations and politicians.
In 1989, Eller was part of international outreach for the coalition running against Manuel Noriega in the Panama presidential election after the United States had invaded Panama.
Manuel Noriega was painted by United States corporate media as a drug trafficking dictator in Panama, however, up until the end of the Cold War, Noriega was on the CIA’s payroll. Eller was hired as a consultant for Guillermo Endara against Manuel Noriega. Hired by whom? That bit is unclear.
During the 1990s, Eller worked with the Clinton Administration. After that he got more involved with the crisis management side of public relations, developing Public Strategies, Inc crisis and litigation practice, and in 2014 he founded The Jeff Eller Group.
Eller is also a donor and former board member of the Texas Tribune.
Eller’s career is based off being hired to manage crises, so after years of managing crises for big corporations, war profiteers, and politicians, it seems it was only a matter of time before he would be hired to manage public relations for a detention center.
Read more of Sam Oser’s work, here.