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A closer look at Mayoral campaign finances

I said I’d get to a closer look at the Mayoral campaign finance reports later, after I had a chance to read all the way through them. That time is now, so let’s have our look.

Mayor Parker’s finance report.

The Mayor’s report clocks in at 701 pages, with more than 500 of those pages documenting contributions. That’s a lot of donors – over 2000 of them – and quite a few of them were recognizable names. Here are a few of the notable donors that I spotted.

Name Amount Notes ====================================================== Amber Mostyn $5,000 Major Dem donor Anna Eastman $ 100 HISD Trustee Ben Barnes $1,000 Former Lt Gov Billy Briscoe $ 250 2010 Treasurer candidate Brian Cweren $ 250 Former District C candidate Brock Wagner $ 100 St Arnold CEO Christina Bryan $ 250 2010 judicial candidate Drayton McLane $5,000 Former Astros owner CM Ed Gonzalez $ 500 District H CM Ellen Cohen $ 100 District C Franci Crane $5,000 Wife of current Astros owner Gracie Saenz $ 350 Former CM Jim Crane $5,000 Astros owner Janice McNair $5,000 wife of Texans owner Janiece Longoria $5,000 Port Commissioner Jenifer Pool $ 157 At Large #3 candidate Jim Adler $1,000 The Tough Smart Lawyer Juliet Stipeche $ 100 HISD Trustee Kent Friedman $1,000 Sports Authority Laura Spanjian $ 200 Sustainability Director Michael Skelly $1,057 Parks By You board member Nancy Kinder $5,000 Philanthropist Peggy Hamric $ 350 Former HD126 Rep Peter Brown $5,000 Former CM Phoebe Tudor $5,000 Philanthropist Reagan Flowers $ 250 Former HCDE candidate Rich Kinder $5,000 Energy executive Robert McNair $5,000 Texans owner Rusty Hardin $5,000 Defense attorney Steve Mostyn $5,000 Major Dem donor Steven Kirkland $3,000 Former District Court Judge

There are some other names I could have included on that list, but you get the idea. There were two other names I noticed that made me do a double-take. One was a former girlfriend of mine, the last woman I dated seriously before I met Tiffany. I haven’t seen or heard tell of her in years, and I had no idea she had any interest in politics, let alone this race. The other was a fellow named Edward Snowdon, who is not this Edward Snowden, since among other things they spell their surnames differently. It did send me scrambling to Google to verify that.

You may notice a couple of donations that end with $57. There were many more such examples in the Mayor’s report. That puzzled me at first, till I remembered that the Mayor turned 57 this year, and that there had been a birthday-themed fundraiser for her awhile back, at which amounts like $57 and $157 were suggested contributions.

Parker also took in a ton of PAC money, about $360K worth according to my added-in-my-head count. She drew a fair amount of state and national money, from the likes of the Victory Fund, Annie’s List, and EMILY’s List, in addition to the usual suspects.

Ben Hall, whose S-PAC report I finally found – I hadn’t realized that my search was only including personal reports – also had some notable donors:

Name Amount Notes ====================================================================== May Walker $1,300 Constable Paul Kubosh $2,500 Brother of AL3 candidate Michael Kubosh Carolyn Evans-Shabazz $ 100 At Large #2 candidate Howard Jefferson $2,850 HCDE Trustee Laurie Robinson $1,000 Former At Large #5 candidate Reagan Flowers $ 250 Former HCDE candidate Christina Bryan $ 250 2010 judicial candidate Olan Boudreaux $1,000 2010 judicial candidate Reggie McKamie $1,000 Former DA candidate Carol Galloway $ 100 Former CM and HISD Trustee Davetta Daniels $ 50 Former HISD Trustee candidate US Rep. Al Green $5,000 CD09 Dikembe Mutombo $1,000 Former Houston Rocket William Lawson $3,000 Pastor Levi Benton $1,000 Former District Court judge

Any friend of Dikembe Mutombo is someone to reckon with, if you ask me. Christina Bryan and Reagan Flowers are the only people I saw that appeared on both lists, though I can’t swear to that. After scrolling through however many hundreds of pages of this stuff, the mind tends to soften. Hall had only two PAC contributions that I saw, from CWA COPE for $7,500 and from the HPFFA for the max of $10,000. He also took in $31,700 from law firms and other businesses, including a $5,000 in kind donation for office space.

Now for expenses. I’m going to break this down into a few general categories and do comparisons where reasonable. Note that Hall has a second finance report for expenses made from personal funds, from which I will also draw for this post. First up is consulting expenses.

Annise Parker Amount Consultant Notes ====================================================================== $62,500 Storefront Political Media General consulting $48,000 Keith Wade General consulting $43,751 Lake Research Polling $38,500 James Cardona Fundraising consulting $33,000 KChace Fundraising consulting $27,000 Stuart Rosenberg Salary $26,650 Sue Davis Media Communications $23,000 Storefront Political Media Campaign research $10,800 Lone Star Strategies Compliance consulting Ben Hall Amount Consultant Notes ====================================================================== $68,000 Strong Strategies Fundraising consulting $34,000 The Yates Company Voter outreach consulting $25,142 Dee Ann Thigpen Communication services $17,500 Damon Williams Voter outreach consulting $12,500 The Yates Company Consulting services $10,000 Advantage Comm. Consultants Media & community outreach $ 6,000 The Imprint Agency Social media consulting $ 7,500 Najvar Law Firm Compliance consulting $ 4,500 Sharon Davis Voter outreach consulting $ 3,100 Darcy Mackey Volunteer coordinator

This doesn’t cover everything for each campaign. Parker had numerous other people on salary, and all of them, including Rosenberg, also received a monthly “cell and medical” stipend. Other than Rosenberg, all the names on her list are people and firms that have been with her since at least 2009. Among Hall’s consultants, Williams, Davis, and Mackey also were paid wages, as were some other folks. The thing that really stands out to me is that Hall spent about as much as Parker did on fundraising, but took in about one seventh as much as she did. I will also note that there are some Republican names among those listed above. Jerad Najvar, whom I’ve mentioned here a couple of times for his good work getting the Texas Ethics Commission to permit campaign contributions via text messaging, is a Republican. Jeff Yates of The Yates Company is a former Executive Director of the Harris County GOP; I actually couldn’t find anything on Google about The Yates Company but was informed about Jeff Yates’ Republican connections some time ago by other folks who knew him. Deeann Thigpen worked for Rep. Ted Poe for six years as his press secretary. Make of all that what you will. Also of interest is that Parker spent money on polling and “campaign research”, which I’m pretty sure is the polite term for “opposition research”, while Hall as far as I can tell did not.

Now let’s look at communications in its various forms.

Annise Parker Amount Payee Notes ====================================================================== $42,430 Storefront Political Media Newspaper ads $14,086 Storefront Political Media Online advertising $10,000 Teleroots Technologies Phone bank $ 8,787 Storefront Political Media Direct mail $ 7,387 Storefront Political Media Campaign letters $ 7,000 Que Onda Magazine Advertisement $ 6,543 Storefront Political Media Letterhead, envelopes, etc $ 5,898 Storefront Political Media Banners, stickers, misc lit $ 3,475 Rindy Miller & Associates Production $ 2,735 Storefront Political Media Photography $ 2,200 Storefront Political Media Website design $ 1,022 Storefront Political Media Postcards

No, I don’t know what the difference between “direct mail” and “campaign letters” is. And wow, that’s a lot of money on newspaper ads. It was three separate entries for $14,143 and change each. I did not see any money for signs, but I suspect those are covered in the January report. I haven’t gone looking for it, because one 700 page report is enough. Rindy Miller did all of Parker’s buying of TV ad time in 2009, and producing her TV ads. I presume from this she doesn’t have much of that in the works just yet.

Ben Hall Amount Consultant Notes ====================================================================== $99,450 New Stream Marketing Strategies Voter ID phone calls $50,000 KMJQ-FM Radio One Radio advertising $40,000 Talaferry Media Group dba D-Mars Online advertising $28,105 Sprint 2 Print Yard signs $20,000 1230 AM KCOH Radio advertising $13,000 1230 AM KCOH Studio sponsorship $11,735 Neumann and Company Push cards $10,600 Advantage Comm. Consultants Print Ads $ 5,417 ShakeFX LLC Website $ 5,000 Nebo Media Radio production $ 5,000 African American News & Issues Advertising $ 4,000 Talaferry Media Group dba D-Mars Campaign signs $ 3,342 Talaferry Media Group dba D-Mars Advertising $ 2,930 Talaferry Media Group dba D-Mars Push cards $ 2,819 Sprint 2 Print Signs and bumper stickers $ 2,250 Talaferry Media Group dba D-Mars T-shirts and advertising $ 2,000 Giant Video Productions Video productions $ 1,500 Stylist Profile Magazine Advertisement $ 1,315 Talaferry Media Group dba D-Mars T-shirts and push cards

Quite the kitchen sink approach here, and no I have no idea what “Voter ID phone calls” means, or why it’s so much more expensive than a phone bank. I do know that New Stream Marketing Strategies did marketing/advertising work for Rick Santorum in 2012. $70K on radio ads is a lot. It’s about what Gene Locke reported spending on radio ads in his 8 day report in 2009. Locke’s report didn’t specify stations, however, so he may have been making a broader buy. I will add that Hall also spent roughly $25K on “sign distribution”, so if you see a lot of his signs out there, know that someone got paid to deliver them. I consolidated four different payments to Neumann and Co for push cards, so I want to point out that Hall spent money on Spanish and Chinese language push cards, which strikes me as a good idea.

And finally, some other miscellaneous expenses. Mayor Parker’s campaign spent $760 in copy costs at FexEx Kinko’s. I wouldn’t normally bother with something as minor as that, except that I saw an entry on Hall’s report that said they paid $2,400 to Advanced Business Copiers for copier rental. Someone’s going to have to explain that one to me.

Hall spent $20,485 at Tony Mandola’s for his announcement event, and $20,000 at Ranchero King Buffet for another event. Good times.

Mayor Parker’s campaign remitted $11,390 to Merchant Bank for credit card donation fees, and $38,676 to the US Treasury for payroll taxes. Other campaigns that have salaried workers pay such taxes as well, but that’s more than average. The credit card fees seem rather high as well, but I’d have to go back and review other reports to get a handle on that.

One last thing to mention is that $40K that Hall spent on online advertising, which sure seems like a lot of money. Texpatriate takes a closer look at how that money was spent and what effect it had.

Ben Hall

I would like to tell this story, from the start, because it is quite entertaining. Imagine Annise Parker’s campaign team held a meeting to come up with the absolute worst-case scenario that could arise out of Hall advertising on Facebook. That might as well be what happened, considering how badly Dr Hall’s campaign messed up (again, to use polite words).

First, Dr Hall’s campaign had a pathetically lackluster showing in the Social Media races. While Parker had other 50k Facebook likes and 15k Twitter followers, Hall had about 2k likes and 200 followers. At one point, I was keeping track of the race between them, but I eventually quit because it was not anywhere near competitive.

Eventually, the Hall campaign decided (quite rightly so) that a Social Media presence would be invaluable in a 21st Century campaign. The campaign then invested thousands of dollars into online advertisements, specifically on Facebook and Twitter. Now, the way these sorts of advertisements work is that you come up with some buzz words and select a general geographical location. I have no knowledge of how the Hall campaign answered these questions, but based upon the results, I have an inkling as to what they answered.

Most likely, the buzz words “fed up” or “morass” or “angry” were used. This would have been done, ostensibly, in an attempt to attract all those healthy dissidents who respectfully oppose Mayor Parker’s administration. Instead, the buzz words tended to match up nicely with those who support armed insurrections and the like. Additionally, instead of focusing on Houstonians, the ads targeted individuals from throughout the State.

The result was a sorry collection of Rednecks, Klansmen, Neo-Nazis and McVeigh sympathizers who found their ways to the Ben Hall campaign’s Facebook page. This ended up causing, again, an unmitigated disaster. Ben Hall’s Facebook likes rose from about 2k to 5.7k, causing nearly 2/3 of the supporters to be astroturfed non-Houstonians.

Yikes. Here’s Hall’s Facebook page, and a brief scan of it will show examples of what Texpate is talking about. Texpate has some screenshots as well. One’s campaign Facebook page and Twitter feed is always going to attract some snarky commentary from your opposition if you’re doing it right, but this is something else altogether. Let it serve as a cautionary tale about buying a social media presence instead of building one organically.

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4 Comments

  1. Mainstream says:

    My recollection is that Yates’ first campaign was for social conservative Dr. Eugene Fontenot running for US Congress, who overran moderate Dolly Madison McKenna in a GOP primary in 1994, and lost narrowly to Ken Bentsen in November.

  2. […] claim he’d only lent his campaign $150,000 when the real total was more like $1.7 million. A closer look at their reports showed that Hall spent a lot of money on a lot of things, a few of which were […]

  3. […] here and here for July analyses of mayoral campaign finances. I’m a little behind on putting 30 Day reports […]

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