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campaign finance reports

8 day finance reports: Mayoral candidates

Here’s the story:

BagOfMoney

Adrian Garcia outspent his chief rivals in the Houston mayor’s race over the last month, hoping to hold what polls suggest is his slipping grip on a spot in the likely December runoff.

The final round of campaign finance filings before the Nov. 3 election, covering the period from late September through last Saturday, showed Garcia’s $1.1 million outlay made up a third of all six top campaigns’ spending for the period.

About $860,000 of the former Harris County sheriff’s expenditures were for advertising, double that of what some polls show is his closest rival, former mayor of Kemah Bill King.

[…]

City Councilman Steve Costello, who has been a strong fundraiser but trails Garcia and King in most polls, posted the second-highest outlay for the period, at $732,000. Of that, he spent $652,000 on advertising, and was helped by another $251,000 in ad spending by a political action committee organized to support him, Houstonians for the Future.

King spent $572,700 in the period, about $429,000 of it on advertising. He stopped running TV ads in the middle of last week but was to resume them on Tuesday, campaign spokesman Jim McGrath said. That gap is not concerning, McGrath said, pointing to consistent radio buys, key endorsements and strong early turnout from conservative areas.

“We like where we are,” McGrath said. “We could spend a good chunk of money on broadcast, but it’s all about getting the most bang for your buck. We like cable.”

State Rep. Sylvester Turner, who remains the presumed frontrunner, raised nearly $400,000 in the period, spent the third-highest amount at $626,000 and entered this week with $285,000 on hand – roughly the same amount as Garcia and Costello. King entered the week with $123,350 banked.

Former Congressman Chris Bell, who has lagged in fundraising, spent $106,000 in the period and entered the final week with $60,500 on hand. Former City Attorney Ben Hall, who loaned his campaign $850,000 earlier in the year, continued to post low fundraising totals and spent $134,000 in the period, leaving himself nearly $694,000 on hand.

Eight day reports for Mayoral candidates and some others (still working on it) are on my 2015 Election page. Here’s my breakdown of the reports:


Candidate    Raised      Spent      Loans   On Hand
===================================================
Bell         96,167    106,155          0    60,564
Costello    294,033    731,861     90,000   278,987
Garcia      440,941  1,079,308          0   278,434
Hall         69,260    134,142    850,000   693,755
King        317,919    572,737    650,000   123,349
McVey         4,800     87,216  1,075,000   954,729
Turner      394,323    626,106          0   285,648

Candidate    Advertising     Print/Mail
=======================================
Bell               3,600         30,620
Costello         631,000         20,300
Garcia           860,000              0
Hall             137,500          1,750
King             430,000         15,000
McVey              2,750         10,262
Turner           160,000         60,000

“Advertising” and “printing” can be vague categories, and some reports are more organized and sensible than others. These are add-them-in-my-head totals, and I’m pretty good at addition, but don’t make any bar bets based on them because I may not have always been consistent in how I categorized things. A few comments:

– Chris Bell mentioned in the interview I did with him that he was a regular user of Uber, and his finance report bears that out.

– Steve Costello had some polling expenses in there, and was the only candidate who listed an expense for phone calls. He classified that as “advertising” on the report, but I didn’t include it in my total. The report for that “Houstonians For The Future” PAC is here.

– Remember how Adrian Garcia had fairly low expenses for consultants and staff in his July report because of his later entry into the race? He made up for that in this report, in addition to the buttload he spent on ads. He was the only one who didn’t have any obvious expenses for mailers that I could see.

– How is it that Ben Hall listed $134K in expenses yet I show him as having $137,500 in ads? He had $25,000 in in-kind donations listed as “Television/Univision”, plus $9,000 in one in-kind donation for “commercials”. Of the rest, there was a single $100,000 expense for “Media”, whatever that means, and a few bits and pieces besides. His “print/mail” total is all in-kind contributions for mail ballots. I feel like these in-kind contributions are somehow un-kosher, but I can’t say for sure.

– Unlike Hall and his monolithic “Media” expense, Bill King itemized all of his media buys, which were multiple ones for the local TV stations and some radio. He also did a fair amount of online advertising – he had several $500 expenses to Google for that, plus a couple other line items. A few other candidates had online ad buys as well.

– Marty McVey bought some Facebook ads, and had one mailer. I don’t know why you loan yourself a million bucks then don’t spend it, but whatever. Most of his expenses for consultants and other campaign services were listed under “Unpaid Incurred Obligations”.

– Sylvester Turner had less advertising expenditures than the fighting-for-second-place candidates, but he also had over $145K listed for “get out the vote” services. He also spent some money on polling.

With all that, I’ve still mostly seen Costello ads – they tend to run on cable, during sporting events – with a handful of Turners and Garcias thrown in. I’ve not yet seen a King ad, nor a Hall ad if one exists. It’s times like these that I’m glad to listen to non-commercial radio – satellite, HD radio, and college station KACC. I will try to summarize the other citywide race 8 day reports in the next day or two.

8 day finance reports: Pro- and anti-HERO

First, from the inbox:

HoustonUnites

Houston Unites has raised nearly $3 million in support of Proposition 1 from late August through last Saturday, according to the campaign’s finance report submitted to the city today. Almost 75 percent of all donors were from Houston.

“Compared to the handful of wealthy opponents funding the rollback of needed protections for African-Americans, Latinos, women and veterans, we have put together a massive, diverse grassroots coalition backing Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance,” said Richard Carlbom, campaign manager of Houston Unites. “We anticipate this to be the closest of races, so these final days are critical for HERO supporters to keep investing in the campaign.”

Highlights of the finance report include:

  • More than 85 percent of the total donors to Houston Unites were from Texas.
  • More than 1,100 of the 1,500 total donors were from Houston.
  • Total raised was $2,971,491.
  • More than $100,000 was raised online from more than 1,000 donors.

Here’s their report. Here also are the reports for the Human Rights Campaign for HERO PAC, the Business Coalition for Prop 1 PAC, and the anti-HERO Campaign for Houston PAC. In case you’re wondering, the name Bob McNair does not appear anywhere in that report. I assume this is because he had merely pledged to give $10K before having his mind changed, so with no money actually changing hands there’s nothing to report. Those of you who are more in tune with the legal requirements, please correct me if I’m wrong on that. There’s also the No On Prop 1 PAC, but they had not reported as of yesterday, so the antis do have more than this, we just don’t have all the details yet.

I did not scan through the Houston Unites report last night – I may do so later, and we have their summary, so we’ll go with that for now. The Business Coalition has four donors – cash donations from Bret Scholtes ($500) and Haynes & Boone LLP ($5,000), and pledges from the Greater Houston Partnership ($71,760) and United Airlines ($10,000). They spent all their money on print ads – $77,500 in the Chronicle, $9,760 in the Houston Business Journal – which may sound weird until you remember that the average age of a Houston voter in this election is expected to be about 69. Newspaper print ads seems like a reasonable way to reach that demographic.

As for the Campaign for Houston, they listed 45 contributions, for a total of $62,495 raised. Forty-one came from individual donors, 21 of whom were non-Houston residents (one Houston person gave twice), with two familiar names: Andrew (son of Phyllis) Schlafly, and former HCC Trustee Yolanda Flores (no middle name given, but the ZIP code points to her). One donor listed in this group rather than the “corporations or labor unions” line item on the subtotals cover sheet page 3, was TriStar Freight, which gave $2,500. Don’t ask me why they did that, I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is the names of the three corporate donors:


Contributor Name             Amount
===================================
Trinity Equity Partners LLP  50,000
Texas Outhouse Inc            5,000
The Education Valet Inc         250

I shit you not (sorry not sorry) about that middle one. They list $88,195 in expenses, of which a bit less than $45K is for media buys. They’re running that disgusting bathroom ad during the evening news, or at least they did last night on KPRC at 6. I have no idea how many of those spots that kind of money can buy. This Chron story documents the ad wars; I can confirm that the pro-HERO folks have mail going out as well, one of which landed in my box yesterday. Campaign for Houston also lists a $50K outstanding loan, which isn’t detailed on this form but is presumably the same Hotze loan from their 30 day report.

Other 8 day reports are coming in as well – you can find them here and by searching here. I’ll do my best to update the Election 2015 page as we go this week.

30 day finance reports, citywide races

Here’s a brief summary of the 30 Day campaign finance reports that I’ve been able to find, some of which are on this page and some of which are findable via the normal campaign finance report website, and all of which are collected on my Election 2015 page. First up, the Mayoral candidates:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Bell 126,563 240,035 0 91,901 Costello 266,845 871,109 90,000 696,539 Garcia 584,916 1,060,457 0 831,284 Hall 57,859 111,417 850,000 758,618 King 284,031 626,621 650,000 322,474 McVey Turner 526,516 1,265,239 0 507,099 Ferreira Lane 11,105 14,467 9,000 5,457 Munoz Nguyen 150 0 5,000 150 Smith Steffes

I’ve separated the “real” candidates from the “minor” candidates. Marty McVey did file a 30-day report but the totals on cover sheet page 2 are wrong; the Chron’s Rebecca Elliott did the pencil work to tot things up if you’re interested. Neither Sylvester Turner nor Adrian Garcia slowed down after their torrid initial pace, thought both Steve Costello and Bill King weren’t as prolific. On the spending side, I’ve seen plenty of Costello ads on my TV lately, as well as a handful of Turner ads; Turner has been all over my Internet, but all of the “real” candidates minus Hall have had multiple sponsored Facebook posts on my feed. I keep wondering when I’m going to see an Adrian Garcia ad on the tube.

The Controllers:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Boney Brown 42,820 181,923 0 106,165 Frazer 58,375 80,377 32,500 58,293 Jefferson Khan 84,950 5,495 5,100 81,290 Robinson 14,050 17,556 0 1,527

No report as yet from Jew Don Boney or Dwight Jefferson. That’s a pretty decent haul for MJ Khan given how late he entered the race. He also had an ad running during the fourth quarter of the Monday Night Football game between the Steelers and Chargers. I’m about 99% certain it was a rerun of one of his Controller ads from 2009. I’ve seen several Chris Brown ads on TV, but nothing from anyone else. Brown, Bill Frazer, and Carroll Robinson have been in my Facebook feeds.

At Large races:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Griffin 1,000 1,600 0 895 Knox 22,940 11,370 0 9,349 Lewis 40,164 64,479 100 48,803 McCasland 60,978 33,222 0 112,443 Oliver 9,400 7,840 0 25,230 PartschGalvan Pool Provost 1,956 6,841 0 543 Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Burks 2,525 1,906 0 618 Davis 7,000 662 0 7,000 Dick 0 103,772 0 0 Rivera Robinson 27,596 40,188 0 121,348 Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Kubosh 39,025 46,255 25,000 41,306 LaRue 13,250 4,524 0 8,725 McElligott Peterson 10,225 9,886 0 2,271 Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Blackmon 27,285 34,500 0 0 Edwards 131,417 61,327 0 191,445 Hansen Morales 17,495 30,042 2,200 3,786 Murphy 670 5,125 14,045 167 Robinson 29,050 25,923 15,040 35,886 Thompson 0 1,850 0 0 Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Batteau 0 0 0 0 Christie 33,202 50,153 0 84,899 Moses 550 1,418 0 0 Nassif 29,690 27,558 0 14,368 Tahir

Candidates with blanks next to their names had no reports I could find. I’ve given some details in the posts about the At Large #4 and At Large #1 races, and Greg covered some of this ground last week. I like to think of campaign finance reports as being one part about who people want to see win, and one part about who (some other) people think actually will win. To whatever extent that holds true, you can see who the betting favorites are. It’s not destiny, of course – as I said, it’s more like Vegas – but it does tell you something. What are your guesses for these races? Leave a comment and let us know.

Chron race overview: District H

A look at the race in District H, to succeed the term-limited CM Ed Gonzalez.

CM Ed Gonzalez

CM Ed Gonzalez

Roland Chavez views city leadership from a labor management perspective with an eye to curbing overtime and ensuring retirement benefits for city workers. He retired in 2013 after 34 years with the Houston Fire Department, and by his own description has been campaigning for City Council ever since.

Chavez advocated for firefighters as their liaison in City Hall under four Houston mayors. A decade ago, during his term as president of the local chapter of the firefighters’ association, he oversaw the workers’ first collective bargaining agreement with the city that included across the board raises and set up a charitable foundation for firefighters.

[…]

Karla Cisneros, another longtime resident of Woodland Heights, is an elementary teacher and former school board member whose primary aim as a City Council member is improving the quality of life for children and families. She took leave from work to run for office.

Cisneros, 61, grew up in a Navy family, and her parents retired in San Antonio. She moved to Houston for graduate school at Rice University, where she studied architecture. Cisneros became a grass-roots activist for neighborhood schools while raising three children with her husband in Woodland Heights. She said the Heights at the time she put down roots in 1985 was a place families left once their kids reached kindergarten age because they lacked confidence in the schools.

[…]

Jason Cisneroz, the third candidate for the District H seat, is focused on crime prevention. Cisneroz aims to strengthen communication between community members and public safety officials and encourage neighbors to look out for one another.

Cisneroz grew up in a family of community activists, attending meetings with his grandmother at the civic association that his paternal uncle founded, where his mother served as a board member.

[…]

The fourth candidate for District H, Abel Davila, is a trained pharmacist who served as a Houston Community College trustee from 1998 to 2013 and chaired the HCC board in 2003 and 2009. He lost his first bid for City Council in 1999, capturing 14 percent of the votes for the District H seat.

Davila, 43, grew up with his parents and nine siblings in the East End. He is married to Diana Davila, a former Houston Independent School District board member, who is seeking to win back a spot on the board in November. She resigned her seat early citing family issues.

A Chronicle story around the time of her departure documented her attempt to get her husband appointed to the district’s bond oversight committee, which oversaw nearly $1 billion in construction funds. The inspector general determined Diana Davila’s action amounted to a conflict of interest.

The couple have a 14-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter. Abel Davila’s record at HCC was marked by an independent investigation commissioned by the college that found he violated HCC policy by steering a $1.5 million painting contract to an upstart company run by one of his pharmacy students who was a family friend. Davila denied wrongdoing, and the Harris County District Attorney did not pursue criminal charges.

Interview with the first three are on the Election 2015 page. 30 day dampaign finance summaries are as follows:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Chavez 14,779 14,104 5,100 51,734 Cisneros, K 12,580 21,055 0 4,717 Cisneroz, J 31,368 14,447 0 26,610 Davila 6,500 9,046 20,000 17,453

Karla Cisneros got the Chron endorsement, while Abel Davila is the Hotze candidate. Roland Chavez and Jason Cisneroz got the rest of the endorsements, with Chavez having the edge. I’m a little surprised Karla Cisneros didn’t go better in that department, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. She’s easily winning the yard sign battle in my neighborhood, with Chavez a distant second. She’s also the only candidate to actually door-knock me this cycle, though I’ve seen her and Chavez and Cisneroz at various events throughout the summer. I tell people when they ask me that there are three good candidates running in H, and one they should not vote for. As long as two of those three make the runoff, it’s fine by me.

Chron race overview: At Large #4

With all of the Mayoral profiles done (*), the Chron turns its attention to the other open seat races. Here’s their profile of At Large #4.

CM C.O. "Brad" Bradford

CM C.O. “Brad” Bradford

Laurie Robinson kicked off her campaign in December 2014, almost a year before Election Day. Robinson, a managing principal and majority shareholder in her company, unsuccessfully ran for City Council in 2011 but says this time she’s more “solution-based.”

The city’s budget deficit is her main issue, and she cites her background uncovering waste in city contracts and her time as project manager during Hurricanes Katrina and Ike as an advantage. Her first order of business would be to sit down with the controller’s office and finance department, to “really look at the financial condition of the city.” Robinson, 50, wants to examine city pensions as well as ReBuild Houston, the city’s “pay-as-you-go” fund for infrastructure improvements.

[…]

First-time candidate Jonathan Hansen, 35, wants to take his experience teaching economics from the classroom to council chambers. A high school teacher and head swim coach, he sees city pensions and the permitting process for businesses as the city’s top troubles.

If elected, he would advocate for a defined contribution system, such as a 401(k) or 403b. Hansen said a lot of small businesses have been negatively affected by the “cumbersome” permitting process, pushing possible tax revenue from new businesses outside of city limits. Once these issues have been resolved, he would move on to infrastructure.

[…]

Amanda Edwards, another first-time candidate, wants to focus on quality-of-life issues that will bring more people to live within city limits so they can contribute to the tax base and fund necessary infrastructure repair.

“It’s falling apart, literally, as we speak. It’s fallen apart,” she said.

Edwards, 33, wants to give Houston residents access to grocery stores, walkable streets and healthy lifestyle choices. A municipal finance lawyer, Edwards plans to rely on her experience with public-private partnerships to find different ways to pay for these ideas.

[…]

While some are first-timers, other candidates such as Roy Morales, 58, are more “seasoned.” A technology consultant and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, Morales previously ran unsuccessfully for mayor as well as City Council. He debated which ring to throw his hat in this time, and ultimately decided on the at-large position.

Morales says the first item on his to-do list would be to fix city streets. He links better roads and infrastructure to more business.

[…]

Evelyn Husband Thompson, 57, made her decision official to run for City Council 12 hours after dropping her son off at college. The widow of Rick Husband, the captain of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Husband Thompson said she “felt a little more freedom to give back to the community she loves” once her children had grown up and left home.

Husband Thompson said she’s done a “tremendous amount” of research to better understand City Council responsibilities and issues facing Houston. She hasn’t had as many public appearances or meetings as her competitors, but plans to go out with police officers and firemen to see different areas of the city.

[…]

For Larry Blackmon, 65, the retired educator and community activist, the Memorial Day floods helped him decide to run. He had considered running four years ago, but the birth of his new granddaughter kept him occupied. Now, she’s his campaign manager. She’s good at getting people to take campaign materials, he said.

Blackmon found it hard to believe that in the fourth largest city, “we had someone drowning in the middle of the city.” He proposes dividing Houston into regions with dedicated pump stations and other flood control measures, with one command station. Then he said, it would be easier to address the region that floods.

[…]

Matt Murphy, 40, compares the campaign experience to triathlon training, something that takes a gradual build-up. The two-time triathlete took on the challenge as a tribute to his son, who was born with a rare birth defect. Murphy, a fire protection engineer designer, is a first-time candidate.

“If you wait around to get qualified, wait around until you feel like you deserve or you earn it, then you’re really kind of neglecting the opportunity to make change now,” he said.

If you look at my Election 2015 page, you can see links to interviews I have done with Robinson, Edwards, Hansen, and Murphy. There are also links to Q&As they and Larry Blackmon have done elsewhere. All of the 30 day financial reports for six of the seven candidates are posted as well; I can’t find one for Jonathan Hansen. Here are the current totals for them:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Blackmon 27,285 34,500 0 0 Edwards 131,417 61,327 0 191,445 Hansen Morales 17,495 30,042 2,200 3,786 Murphy 670 5,125 14,045 167 Robinson 29,050 25,923 15,040 35,886 Thompson 0 1,850 0 0

Blackmon’s finance report is not correctly filled out – his “Support and Totals” section on cover sheet page 2 is blank, though he does have the Subtotals section on cover sheet 3 filled out. That doesn’t include a cash on hand number, so I filled in the zero on my own. Blackmon reported a $10,000 contribution from a Daniel Jackson of Stafford, which if true seems like a violation of the $5,000 limit for individual contributors. I haven’t looked very closely at the other reports just yet.

We got a mailer from Edwards late last week. I’ve not gotten anything from the other candidates as yet, though I have seen numerous sponsored posts on Facebook from Robinson and Edwards. Only Edwards is officially for HERO. Husband Thompson is the Hotze candidate. I suspect those items will serve as filters for some of us. Robinson got the Chron endorsement; she and Edwards split all the other non-Hotze endorsements that I tracked. I couldn’t find a webpage or campaign Facebook page for Husband Thompson, so i guess you’re on your own if you want to know more about her. Other than that, I hope this is enough to help you at least narrow the field down for yourself.

30 day finance reports: Pro- and anti-HERO

Some good news here.

HoustonUnites

Supporters of Houston’s contentious equal rights ordinance raked in $1.26 million during seven weeks of official fundraising, more than doubling opponents’ efforts and fueling a fierce and frenzied media campaign to court voters before the law hits the November ballot.

In campaign finance reports filed Monday that reflect late summer totals, both sides spent more than $550,000, largely on dueling TV and radio ads. But the more than $521,000 that supporters of the law still had left in campaign coffers as of Sept. 25 dwarfed the $58,000 that opponents reported in cash-on-hand.

[…]

In the battle over the city’s equal rights ordinance, Jared Woodfill, spokesman for opponents, said the campaign is unfazed by supporters’ significant fundraising totals.

Opponents reported a $100,000 donation from conservative developer Al Hartman, $25,000 from Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle and $5,000 from Houston state Rep. Gary Elkins, among others. Longtime anti-gay activist Steve Hotze also loaned the campaign $50,000.

“We’re absolutely not intimidated at this point,” Woodfill said. “I believe the momentum is in our favor and clearly this is an ordinance that the people in Houston don’t want.”

In a news release, the Houston Unites campaign said it expected to spend $2 million before the November election.

The campaign said 80 percent of its nearly 700 donors are Houston residents.

But its efforts were also fueled by big-ticket contributions from national groups and figures.

The Washington, D.C.- based Human Rights Campaign contributed more than $200,000, and New York philanthropist Jon Stryker, a frequent donor to LGBT causes, pitched in $100,000. Colorado’s Gill Action and New York-based American Unity Fund, both LGBT advocacy groups, donated a combined $200,000.

Campaign manager Richard Carlbom, in a written statement, said the group had “certainly done well on the money front so far.”

“But, there is a great sense of urgency around fundraising this week and next,” Carlbom said. “We know from past ballot campaigns that equal rights opponents spend significant dollars in the final weeks. We must remain competitive with them in what will, no doubt, be a close election.”

The story has some highlights of candidate finance reports as well. Those can be found here, same place as the July reports. Reports for PACs can be found on the usual city finance webpage – here’s the Advanced Search link; select either the “Specific-Purpose Political Committee” or “Both” radio button, then click the “Search” button next to the “Candidate/Committee” name boxes. Latest results are on the last pages, so go to page 4; the only relevant result on page 3 is for Brenda Stardig’s campaign PAC.

There are three PACs of interest regarding HERO. Two are pro-HERO: the Houston Unites Against Discrimination PAC and the Human Rights Campaign Houston Equal Rights PAC. One is anti-HERO, the Campaign for Houston PAC. There is a “No on Houston Prop 1” PAC that shows up in the search results, but it reports no funds raised or spent.

Here’s a summary of the reports for the three active PACs mentioned above:

PAC name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ============================================================== Houston Unites 1,262,893 597,299 0 521,462 Human Rights Campaign 218,480 205,810 0 11,503 Campaign for Houston 274,785 492,231 50,000 18,494

Houston Unites had $901K in cash contributions and $359K in kind. It also reports $6,800 in loans on summary page 3, though I didn’t see any explanation of that. Some of their big donors are as follows:

Human Rights Campaign 205,810 Gill Action LLC 100,000 American Unity Fund 100,000 ACLU of Texas 95,000 Freedom For All Americans 50,000 Wes Milliken 50,000 Texas Freedom Network 25,000 Equality Texas 12,500 Annise Parker campaign 5,000 Robert Gallegos campaign 1,000

So basically, the HRC PAC was a passthrough, as all the funds they raised ($200K of which came from themselves) went to the Houston Unites PAC. A lot of these same big donors were also the main suppliers of in kind contributions, which mostly amounted to staff time and office space:

ACLU Texas 137,187 Freedom for All Americans 124,017 Human Rights Campaign 50,144 ACLU (national office) 16,750 Texas Freedom Network 15,139 Equality Texas 10,625

The expenses listed were fairly straightforward. About $360K was allocated for advertising. Some $158K was for consulting to a group called Block by Block; there were some smaller consultant expenses as well. There was about $37K for printing, and $5K for polling.

And here are the big donors for Campaign for Houston:

Allen R Hartman 100,000 Jack Cagle PAC 25,000 Ralph Schmidt 25,000 Mickey Ellis 20,000 Texans for Family Values PAC 10,000 Mac Haik Ford 10,000 Law Office of Melanie Flowers 10,000 Ryan Sitton 10,000 Anthony McCorvey 10,000 Johnny Baker 10,000 Edd Hendee 5,000 Paul Pressler 5,000 Dan Huberty 5,000 William Carl 5,000 Jay E. Mincks 5,000 Malcolm Morris 5,000 Gary Elkins 5,000 Dwayne Bohac 1,000 Jodie L. Jiles 1,000 Norman Adams 1,000

That’s $268K of the $275K they reported raising. Grassroots, they ain’t. There are some familiar names in this list. Jack Cagle is County Commissioner in Precinct 4. Ryan Sitton is a Railroad Commissioner. Dan Huberty, Gary Elkins, and Dwayne Bohac are all State Reps. Texans for Family Values is the main source of anti-gay wingnuttery at a state level. Edd Hendee is (was? I don’t listen to AM radio) a talk radio host and the owner of the Taste of Texas restaurant. I don’t recognize a lot of the other names, but I’m glad I’ve never bought a car from Mac Haik or sought legal services from Melanie Flowers.

The expense side of their report is weird. Two line items totaling $200,350.50 are to American Express for unitemized expenses. I mean, these are presumably credit card bills, so they could be for just about anything – office supplies, food, consulting expenses, strippers and porn downloads, who knows? It’s their responsibility – requirement, actually – to specify what these expenses are. My guess, if I were forced to make one, is that these are their line items for advertising costs, as there’s basically nothing else for that. But that’s just a guess, and I should note that while they listed $492,231 in total expenses on their summary page, the individual expense items only add up to $291,880. Is there an error in their form, or are there another $200K in expenditures they’re not reporting? Like I said, it’s on them to tell us. I for one will feel free to speculate wildly until they do so.

Those are the highlights for now. I am posting 30 day reports as I find them to the Election 2015 webpage. I’ll have a closer look at the reports for citywide candidates next week. Any questions about this, leave ’em in the comments.

Chron Mayoral profile: Bill King

This is the fifth in a series of profiles on the top candidates running for mayor in Houston.

Bill King

Bill King

A fiscal conservative concerned with shoring up the city’s finances, [Bill] King would be Houston’s first Republican mayor in more than 30 years.

To get there, he aims to overcome low name identification by consolidating support among suburban voters and the city’s conservative business class. The self-proclaimed moderate has gained the backing of top conservative groups, including the C Club and the Houston Realty Business Coalition.

Yet, King ended the mid-year fundraising period with less money in the bank than many of his top-tier competitors, leading political observers to question whether he can advance while City Councilman Stephen Costello’s campaign remains strong. Both are vying for conservative support.

“We’re facing some real challenges on this pension system, and the financial management of the city across the board is a problem,” King said. “The mayor’s job needs to be the last thing you do in your career. You need to be the arbiter, the umpire, the referee calling the balls and strikes.”

[…]

He launched a committee to explore a 2009 bid for Houston, but, ultimately, opted out.

“I knew way back then that pensions were going to bankrupt the city. Nobody was prepared to hear that,” King said. “I just thought, ‘You know what? I can’t run a campaign and not talk about what I see as being the defining issue.'”

Last year, with pension reform on his mind, King again began mulling a bid.

“The decision I was trying to make was whether I was going to run or I was going to stay out and support Costello,” King said. “There’s not a lot of daylight between us.”

As the fall of 2014 approached, the grandfather of three decided it was time, spurred by the realization that he disagrees with Costello’s plans for pension reform and infrastructure improvements.

I don’t have a whole lot to add here. As I’ve said before, I don’t find candidate biographies as interesting as I do their policy positions. Your mileage may vary on that. The bit about maybe supporting Costello instead of running is interesting and something I hadn’t heard before. I’d think that one or the other of them would have a better chance of making it to a runoff than the two of them together in the same race, but it’s not up to me who gets to run. As for the concern about King’s cash on hand, the real problem is his burn rate. I’ll be very interested to see what his 30-day report looks like.

How will Paxton pay for his defense?

It’s a tricky question.

Best mugshot ever

Paxton faces three felony charges in Collin County, all related to his work as a private attorney and businessman. He told supporters in an email that he expects to be found innocent of all charges. The indictments handed up last month by a grand jury have nothing to do with the public Ken Paxton — the one who serves as attorney general and once served in the Senate and House, and the one who campaigned for votes for each of those jobs.

That means he can’t use the money in his substantial campaign account, according to attorneys familiar with the state’s campaign finance laws — Randall “Buck” Wood and Ed Shack, both of Austin. That money — he reported cash on hand of almost $2.5 million at the end of June — cannot be converted to his personal use.

And because the charges involve his private business and not his public business, he can’t tap the campaign funds.

That doesn’t mean he has to pay for everything, but it means it would be complicated to try to raise money to cover his expenses. And even if he finds a legal way to do it, finding a politically palatable solution will be hard. Voters are accustomed to political contributions, even if the money is being used to defend a politician in court for charges related to actions taken on the campaign or as an officeholder. Tom DeLay had a defense fund. Kay Bailey Hutchison did, too.

Personal litigation is different. Paying for that has nothing to do with public business. Offering to help someone in Paxton’s position is to offer a gift; offering a gift to a politician, with certain exceptions, is to offer a bribe.

The exceptions to the state’s bribery laws might allow a Ken Paxton Defense Fund, and if it works out, that could make his nights more restful.For instance, it’s clear that a public official cannot accept benefits from someone who is involved in litigation with their agency, or is about to be. So many of the folks most interested for professional reasons in helping the state’s top lawyer wouldn’t be able to give. And it’s clear in the law that legislators, the governor, the lieutenant governor and the people who work for them cannot accept gifts. The attorney general and other statewide officials are not named in that statute. Business associates can give giftsto public officials, however, so long as their gifts are independent of the recipient’s status as a public servant.

The story notes how Paxton’s situation is different than Rick Perry’s, since Perry’s charges stemmed from actions he took as Governor. I suppose we should be grateful that Ken Paxton wasn’t accused of securities fraud while acting as Attorney General, but that puts him in the same positions as pretty much everyone else accused of a serious crime: It’s going to cost him a lot of money to defend himself. Unlike everyone else, Paxton will have plenty of people who would like to help him pay his legal bills, but that’s also problematic. And given Paxton’s apparent history of, um, being casual about rules and regulations, perhaps someone ought to keep a close eye on any “Ken Paxton Legal Defense Fund” or similar construct, as well as Paxton’s existing campaign finance account, because you never know.

Chron looks at Mayoral fundraising

They focus on small-dollar donors.

BagOfMoney

A Houston Chronicle analysis of the top seven candidates’ campaign finance filings covering the first six months of the year shows most businesses and special interest groups are waiting for the race to shape up before pushing their chips forward, and shows the top campaigns have each drawn roughly half their cash from wealthy donors giving the individual maximum of $5,000.

The most instructive data, political analysts say, comes from grassroots donors giving $50 or less.

For one thing, University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray says, there are far more people able to give $50 than $5,000 – and those folks often will cut additional checks to fund the final push to November.

“They’re the people you expect to do the door-knocking and stuff the envelopes and hustle up some additional votes,” Murray said. “That’s awfully important because turnout has dropped in city elections. Every vote becomes more valuable. And research shows one of the most effective ways to get people to vote is to tell your friends, ‘I’m going to vote and you should to.’ ”

Presumed front-runners Adrian Garcia and Sylvester Turner drew the largest share of their contributions from small donors, followed by City Councilman Steve Costello.

Garcia, the former Harris County sheriff, boasted 315 small donors, a quarter of all contributors to his campaign. Turner, a longtime state representative from north Houston, reported 141 small donors, also comprising about a fourth of his donors.

Costello drew a fifth of his donors from the grassroots. This surprised some analysts, who knew only that the moderate-to-conservative engineer was sure to draw business backing. Others said the haul was notable but needed context, given that Garcia entered the race months after Costello, and Turner had just nine days to solicit checks following the end of the legislative session and associated fundraising blackout rules.

Though his overall fundraising total was modest, former Congressman Chris Bell also drew a solid group of small donors, with these supporters making up 17 percent of his contributors.

Bill King only had 6 percent of his donors come from this small-dollar group, but Mark Jones assures us that doesn’t really mean anything, so don’t go wallowing in existential despair just yet. There’s also a chart that also tallies up contributions from PACs and max donors, or you could have read what I wrote a couple of weeks ago, with more information and fewer expert quotes. Snark aside, looking at the small-dollar donors is a worthwhile exercise that I didn’t have the bandwidth to do. More transparency is good.

HISD and HCC finance reports

Here’s what we know, though it’s incomplete.

BagOfMoney

Fundraising among most HISD board members was slow during the first half of 2015.

Board president Rhonda Skillern-Jones, who plans to seek re-election to her District 2 seat this November, raised the most money this reporting period ($4,000) and has the most on hand ($8,195), according to the July campaign finance reports.

Three other board seats are on the ballot in November. Trustees Manuel Rodriguez Jr. (District 3) and Juliet Stipeche (District 8) have told me they plan to seek re-election. Trustee Paula Harris (District 4) has not returned messages, but she has raised no money and reports none on hand — a good sign she is not running again.

The first day to file the formal paperwork to be on the ballot was Saturday. Only one candidate, Ramiro Fonseca, who’s seeking the District 3 seat, had filed as of Monday morning. The last day to file is Aug. 24.

Three others have filed reports naming a campaign treasurer, indicating they were interested in running: Jolanda “Jo” Jones (District 4), Ann McCoy (District 4) and Darlene “Koffey” Smith (District 2).

July reports for all of the HISD and HCC Trustee candidates that I know of are now up on the 2015 Election page. Note that only reports for HISD incumbents are available through the HISD website. HCC posts non-incumbent candidate reports as well, and good on them for doing so. HISD, you need to do something about this.

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand ================================================ Skillern-Jones 4,000 5,150 0 8,195 Rodriguez 3.325 808 0 2,856 Stipeche 0 5,733 0 9,884 Tamez 16,750 248 0 15,820 Evans-Shabazz 0 0 0 0 Hansen 200 1,826 5,000 3,374 Loredo 4,147 779 0 4,805 Aguilar 0 4,827 10,000 5,172

Compared to some of the other races we’ve seen, these are Dollar General to their Niemann Marcus. In HISD IV, everyone I’ve spoken to has told me that Paula Harris is not running for re-election. It’s annoying that the non-incumbent reports are not online, but they do exist in paper form, and Ericka Mellon was kind enough to track them down.

Former City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones has raised more than $8,100 in her run for the HISD school board, nearly twice as much as competitor Ann McCoy.

Jones’ contributions for the District 4 race include more than $2,800 from her council campaign. She served on the council from 2008 through 2011.

Community activist Larry McKinzie also has filed a campaign treasurer report to run for District 4 but did not submit the fund-raising report due July 15, indicating he had not raised money at that point.

[…]

In District 3, incumbent Manuel Rodriguez Jr. faces a rematch with Ramiro Fonseca. Rodriguez has more than $2,800 on hand. Fonseca has filed a treasurer report but said he has not raised funds yet.

In District 2, incumbent Rhonda Skillern-Jones, the board president, raised $4,000 during the last six-month reporting period. Darlene “Koffey” Smith, also running for District 2, has not raised any money but reports spending $1,800 that she intends to reimburse with donations. Youlette McCullough, who lists her nickname as “Baby Jane,” has filed a treasurer report for the District 2 seat, indicating her plans to run.

No word yet on whether HISD trustee Juliet Stipeche will face an opponent in the District 8 race.

There’s more at the link, so go check it out.

As for HCC, the only contested race so far is in my district, District 8, where first-termer Eva Loredo faces Art “brother-in-law of Abel Davila” Aguilar. John Hansen is running for the seat being vacated by Sandie Mullins Moger, Carolyn Evans-Shabazz was appointed to replace Carroll Robinson after he stepped down to run for Controller, and Adriana Tamez is running for a full term after winning the remainder of Mary Ann Perez’s term in 2013. I have heard that Dave Wilson plans to back some candidates for the Board, including Aguilar, but there are no other candidates as yet. His own finance report shows no funds raised or spent and nothing but an outstanding loan on hand; if he does play in any races I’m sure he’ll do it via a PAC, however, so don’t read too much into that. If you hear anything about that, let me know. Otherwise, not too much of interest here to report.

If HERO then no other ballot items

Makes sense.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

With her signature nondiscrimination law likely to appear on the November ballot, Mayor Annise Parker left in doubt Wednesday whether she will ask City Council to also place before voters long-discussed changes to term limits and the city’s revenue cap.

Parker said she has no interest in putting the latter two items to amend the city charter to a vote only to see them fail because they lacked robust campaigns behind them.

“It was my full expectation that I’d be spending my remaining campaign funds and my personal time advocating for these two good-government items, but because of the presence of HERO (the Houston equal rights ordinance) on the ballot, I’m going to be having to split my energy over there,” she said. “There is no – at this point – group willing to step up and advocate for the other two. I’m not going to put some things out there just to fail. It may be more timely to bring the charter amendments to next November’s electorate, and I can leave that decision to the next mayor.”

Term-limited Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a major American city, said she will discuss with council members and make a final decision in the coming days on what items to place on the agenda for the group’s Wednesday meeting.

[…]

Political observers say the divisive ordinance’s appearance on the ballot may skew the electorate by rallying conservatives to show up for what are typically extremely low-turnout municipal elections, and could undercut discussion of other issues in the mayoral and council races, such as the city budget and crumbling streets.

University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus said Parker’s wariness of moving forward with complicated governance issues when such a clear-cut social issue will be on the ballot is well founded.

“You’ll have pro and con on HERO, and that’s going to create a politics and a set of voters that may not reflect the kind of voters that would otherwise come out for an issue of importance to city finances,” he said. “I think she’s wise in that way to push things off to make sure those issues get the kind of hearing they deserve instead of the kind of hearing they’d otherwise get in the politics of the moment.”

I don’t believe the turnout effect of having HERO repeal on the ballot is going to be entirely one-directional, but I do agree that it’s going to consume a lot of the oxygen in the campaign. It’s also going to require a lot of financial resources. Mayor Parker has $233K cash on hand as of the July finance report, which might have been enough to push the other changes she had in mind but likely isn’t enough to defend HERO and certainly isn’t enough to do both. Clearly, the first priority is defending the gains that we’ve made. It’s unfortunate that the other items will have to be left for the next Mayor to sort out – I strongly suspect the next City Council will wish they didn’t have to deal with the extra cuts that the revenue cap will impose on them – but it is where we are.

A closer look at Controller finance reports

Last week I took a closer look at the campaign finance reports for Mayoral candidates. Let’s do the same for the Controller candidates.

Candidate Raised In Kind Spent Loans On Hand ========================================================== Robinson 46,170 3,908 33,908 0 5,033 Brown 267,750 3,547 20,818 0 222,858 Frazer 128,097 1,009 120,956 32,500 53,973 Jefferson 8,653 2,943 9,255 1,860 5,521 Boney 8,390 0 5,487 0 2,902 Candidate PAC Max Non-Hou PAC % Max % Non-Hou % ================================================================== Robinson 8,500 10,000 17,000 18.4% 21.7% 36.8% Brown 2,500 140,000 42,450 0.9% 52.3% 15.6% Frazer 10,350 15,000 7,400 8.1% 11.7% 5.8% Jefferson 1,000 0 2,100 11.6% 0.0% 24.3% Boney 1,500 0 3,795 17.9% 0.0% 45.2% Candidate Overhead Outreach =============================== Robinson 1,750 28,889 Brown 10,535 1,923 Frazer 86,040 7,028 Jefferson 5,910 1,682 Boney 1,200 254

BagOfMoney

As always, all reports can be seen here. To review, PAC money is anything given by a PAC or business – basically, donations not from individuals – “Max” is the sum of donations from people who gave $5K and PACs who gave $10K (I didn’t see any of the latter on these reports), and “Non-Hou” sums up the contributions given from people who don’t have a “Houston TX” address. That was a bit more challenging in the case of Carroll Robinson, since he annoyingly only listed the state and ZIP code for his donors, but I managed. On the spending side, “Overhead” was initially intended to be the sum of money paid for items listed as “Consulting”, “Salaries/Wages/Contract labor” and payroll taxes, but as is often the case with these reports things got a little messy. Frazer had a bunch of payments to Mammoth Marketing Group that including things like Consulting Expense, Solicitation/Fundraising Expense, and Office Overhead/Rental Expense, which was for website design and maintenance. I included all of that, but listed expenses for Printing under Outreach, which is intended for advertising, mailers, yard signs, and the like. Frazer was also the only candidate to list rent for office space as an expense, so I included that under Overhead as well. Like I said, it got a bit messy.

The topline dollar figures speak for themselves. The spending is of more interest to me. Here’s a look at some of the items that caught my eye for each candidate.

Carroll Robinson – $29,200 of the money he spent went to Patriot Strategies Group, for the following items:

$1,000 for consulting fees
$8,500 for Auto Calls
$2,200 for Internet or Online Ads
$4,500 for Mailing
$9,500 for Auto Calls & Mail
$2,000 for Video Production & E-Blast
$1,000 for Social Media & Video Production
$500 for Social Media

Everything above is listed as Outreach except for the first charge. I don’t know why Auto Calls and Mail are lumped together on one item when they are separate on others, but like I said, this can get messy. $8,500 plus sounds a lot to me for robocalls, especially this early in a campaign.

Chris Brown didn’t actually spent that much – I expect that will come later – but one of his larger expenditures was $4,489 to Piryx for “online donation fees”. Piryx handles a lot of this sort of transaction = you’ll see their name on a lot of finance reports – but usually you see charges in the one to two dollar range. I have no explanation for this, unless maybe they take a cut of each donation and a bunch of those max contributions were made online.

Bill Frazer spent $22,825 from personal funds, with $6,077 in “unpaid incurred obligations”. As with Bill King, I think that burn rate could come back to haunt him.

Dwight Jefferson – All $2,963 in kind was from Coats Rose PAC for an Event Expense. On a somewhat odd note, the Andrews & Kurth PAC gave $1,500 to every candidate in this race except Jefferson, who got $1,000. I think if I were Dwight Jefferson, I’d ask them to make it up to me.

Jew Don Boney had a lot of food-related expenses listed as Solicitation/Fundraising Expense. There’s not much more of interest than that.

So that’s the Controller reports. I’ll try to see about doing the same with the Council reports.

Mayoral finance reports: Out of town cash and max donors

You may have noticed that there’s a lot of money in the Mayoral race this year, even after subtracting what the candidates have given or loaned to themselves. You may be wondering where all that money came from. This post aims to shed a little light on that.

First question: How much of the money raised by Mayoral candidates came from Houston donors, and how much came from outside Houston?

Candidate Non-Hou $ Total $ Pct % ========================================== Garcia 539,949 1,441,792 37.4% Costello 312,660 1,276,281 24.5% Turner 296,588 747,793 39.7% King 103,501 721,250 14.4% Bell 51,288 366,770 14.0% Hall 35,925 69,025 52.0% McVey 21,750 43,927 49.5%

Disclaimer time: All reports can be seen here. My methodology was ridiculously simple. All donations for which the city listed in the report entry was something other than “Houston” was counted for this. Obviously, not all “Houston” addresses are actually within the city – mail sent to all of unincorporated Harris County and such small cities as West U and Southside Place say “Houston, TX” on the envelope – but I wanted to complete this exercise before the election took place, so I followed this guideline for ease of use. As with all totals presented here and elsewhere, this was a manual process, which means I looked over the reports and counted up the totals myself. It is highly likely that I goofed here and there, so consider these numbers to be reasonable estimates and not gospel truth. Finally, also as before, the “Total $” figures represent the cash money raised by each candidate, thus excluding in kind donations, loans, and (in the case of Costello) contributions from the candidate himself.

Having done this exercise, I (reluctantly) feel like I should go back and review Mayor Parker’s July forms from 2009, 2011, and 2013, as well as Gene Locke and Peter Brown’s from 2009, to see if what we’re seeing here is completely out of whack with past results or not. I know Mayor Parker had a strong national fundraising network, but I’ve no idea offhand what that meant in total dollars and proportional amounts. Whatever the case, I feel confident saying that Adrian Garcia knocked it out of the park here. He raised more from outside Houston than Chris Bell, Ben Hall, and Marty McVey raised in total combined; his non-Houston total is 75% of Bill King’s overall total. And that still left $900K from in Houston. Holy smokes.

One thing I noticed while perusing Garcia’s report: He received a ton of contributions from people with Asian names, both in Houston and not. He also had a lot of contributions from Latino/a donors, but the sheer number of Asian supporters surprised me. Make of that what you will.

I am curious what motivates someone to donate to a Mayoral candidate they can’t vote for. I get why people contribute to Congressional and Senate candidates from other places – laws made in DC affect them regardless, and partisan control matters a lot – but the justification here is somewhat less clear. To be fair, the vast majority of these non-Houston donations came from places like Katy, the Woodlands, Sugar Land, and so forth. For all the griping I did about non-Houstonians driving the red light camera referendum, it’s clear that folks who work here but live elsewhere have a stake in the outcome of elections like this. And of course some of these out of towners are in the personal networks of the candidates – friends, family, in-laws, colleagues (Sylvester Turner received several contributions from other members of the Legislature, for example), and so forth. I’d still like to understand this phenomenon a little better. Surely one of our Professional Political Pundits can put a grad student on it.

Next item: In Houston, an individual can give a maximum of $5000 to a city candidate in a given cycle, and a PAC maxes out at $10K. Having an army of small-dollar donors is a great thing in many ways, but those big checks sure add up in a hurry. How much of these hauls came from the deep pockets?

Candidate # Maxes Max $ Total $ Pct % ===================================================== Garcia 148 745,000 1,441,792 51.7% Costello 138 720,000 1,276,281 56.4% Turner 76 410,000 747,793 54.8% King 71 365,000 721,250 50.6% Bell 25 125,000 366,770 34.1% Hall 11 55,000 69,025 79.7% McVey 2 10,000 43,927 22.8%

Again with the disclaimers: Same manual process as above. Not all max donors give $5K at once. There were several gifts of $2500 each, and other combinations I observed as well. “# Maxes” is the count of all max donors, both individuals and PACs, which I also counted as one even though they could give twice as much. Multiply “# Maxes” by 5,000 and the difference will tell you how many max PAC donations that candidate got.

With the large amounts of money collected, the large number of donors who gave their all should not be surprising. One reason why I did this was to see who might have a harder time replicating their success between now and the beginning of October, when the 30 day reports come due. You can’t hit up those who are tapped out for a repeat performance, after all. I guess this leaves Chris Bell in better shape than some others, but I’m not sure how much effect that will have.

I should note here that two of Ben Hall’s max donors were named Hotze, an “SM Hotze” and a “JS Hotze”. Hall has gone all in with the haters, despite his weak sauce denials. This could actually present a bit of a problem for King and to a lesser extent Costello, as both of them are in their own way wooing Republican voters. Clearly, some of those Republicans are not going to be open to them. I presume Hotze still has some sway among GOP voters (a subset of them, at least), so if he actively pushes for Hall via mail/robocall/whatever as the One True Candidate Who Will Stand Up To The Gays, then I think that has to put a ceiling on King and Costello. How much that might be I don’t know – if I were forced to guess right now I’d say “maybe two or three points” – but as we’ve been saying all along, this is likely to be a close race where not too many votes could make a big difference in the outcome. Hall is a threat to Turner as well, of course, I just wanted to point this possibility out.

I think that’s about all the patience I have for scouring the Mayoral reports. I may take a closer look at the other candidates’ reports as my copious spare time allows.

Mayoral finance reports: PACs and consultants

Let’s take a deeper dive into Mayoral candidate fundraising by examining one of the main categories of raised funds, and one of the main categories of spent funds. I speak of PAC money for the former, and consultant fees/staff salaries for the other. Here’s how much each candidate raised in PAC funds in their July report:

Candidate PAC $ Total $ PAC % ========================================= Turner 127,650 747,793 17.1% Costello 124,500 1,276,281 9.8% Garcia 87,150 1,441,792 6.0% King 41,000 721,250 5.7% Bell 5,500 366,770 1.5% McVey 3,000 43,927 6.8% Hall 0 69,025 0.0%

As a reminder, you can see all the finance reports that have been submitted on my Election 2015 page. I considered any contributor identified as a PAC or a business of some kind to be a “PAC” for these purposes. If you want to be technical, I’m adding up the contributions that didn’t come from individuals or couples. I also did not include in kind contributions in these totals. For most candidates, I found the value represented in the “Total $” column on the new Subtotals page, which is the modification to the forms that caused all of the trouble this cycle. Ben Hall, of course, didn’t bother with that page, and also included the $850,000 he loaned himself in his “Total Political Contributions” entry. His form was pretty short and it was easy enough to sort it out. Steve Costello’s total above is lower than what you’ll find on his report. This is because he contributed $175K to his campaign – it was reported as a contribution, not a loan – and his PAC donated an additional $10K. For the purposes of this post, I excluded them from his total amount, and didn’t add the PAC contribution to the “PAC $” figure. Sylvester Turner definitely gets the benefit of being a long-term office holder. We’ll see other effects of that in subsequent reports. I expect Adrian Garcia will pull in more PAC money for the 30 day report. As impressive as his haul is, he’s still catching up in some ways.

Now let’s look at the other side of the ledger:

Candidate Salary $ Consult $ Sum $ Raised Pct ========================================================== King 67,289 306,400 373,689 721,250 51.8% Turner 131,192 224,000 355,192 747,793 47.5% Costello 120,932 181,800 302,732 1,276,281 23.7% Bell 102,226 30,350 132,576 366,770 36.1% Garcia 52,427 31,300 83,727 1,441,792 5.8% McVey 60,500 9,000 69,500 43,927 158.2% Hall 0 24,200 24,200 69,025 35.1%

There are two basic categories of paying for people to do stuff – “Salaries/Wages/Contract Labor” and “Consulting”. I added all of the former to “Salary $”, and I also included anything classified as health insurance for staffers and payroll taxes. I did not include fees paid to payroll management services like ADI, because I’m just obstreperous like that. Here you can see the advantage of Adrian Garcia’s late entry into the race – unlike several of his competitors, he hasn’t been paying for staffers and consultants since January. Bill King raised a decent amount of money, but man that’s a big burn rate. If he’s going to hire all those people and run an air campaign, he’s going to have to keep writing checks to himself. Turner’s burn rate is almost as high, but he started out with (and still has) a lot of cash, and his strategy seems to be more targeted, and thus less likely to run into five- and six-figure media buys. Costello spent almost as much as those two did on people, but his much bigger haul gives him a lot of cushion. Bell is going to need to figure out how to run a lean and cost-effective campaign, because he’s not living in the same ZIP code as those four. While multiple candidates are doing at least some self-financing, Marty McVey shows what the edge case for that looks like. He literally wouldn’t have a campaign without his own money, and he still has plenty of it to spend. It will be interesting to see what he does with it. As for Ben Hall, all I will say is that he paid $12,500 to the Hall Law Firm for legal expenses. Hey, if you want something done right, you do it yourself, amirite?

In the next entry in this series, I’ll take another look at where all this money is coming from. You’re not at all wrong to think we’re swimming in it in a way that we weren’t in 2009 or 2003.

Mayoral ad spending

The Chron takes a look at one of the more visible aspects of all the money that Mayoral candidates have raised or loaned themselves so far.

BagOfMoney

Despite taking in a total of more than $7 million, Houston’s mayoral candidates spent relatively little on advertising in the first half of the year, paving the way for an onslaught of messaging in the closing months of the campaign.

In general, less-known candidates – such as City Councilman Steve Costello and former mayor of Kemah Bill King – poured more money into advertising, including pricey TV spots, to introduce themselves to the public.

Meanwhile, those with strong name identification with voters – such as former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and state Rep. Sylvester Turner – spent less on advertising or targeted their efforts at the voters most likely to support them.

Though it will be months before it is clear whether either strategy worked, the numbers from the mayoral hopefuls’ first round of campaign disclosures provide an early indication of how the race is shaping up.

King allocated more than $191,000 to advertising, nearly as much as the rest of the field combined, while Costello spent about $66,000, more than a third of which went toward online campaigns and $37,000 for video and associated production costs.

I haven’t seen a single TV ad yet. For what it’s worth, I think that unless you’re going to carpet-bomb the airwaves a la Bill White in 2003 or (to a lesser extent) Peter Brown in 2009, early TV ad spending won’t have much effect. The main problem with TV ads is that they’re written on water – if your target audience isn’t watching at the right time, it’s on and gone. On the other hand, I can’t visit a webpage anywhere these days without seeing a Bill King ad, as it was for me with Annise Parker in 2013. I am, to put it mildly, unlikely to base my vote on Internet advertising, but at least he’s out there in a tangible way.

The rest of the story is about the so-far lower-cost advertising efforts by other candidates. You can scan the finance reports yourself if you are a crazy person like me have the time, but there’s not that much to see there on this front as yet. One thing I’ll say is that these efforts are either to boost name recognition or to remind certain groups that a particular person is running. The target is the 180,000 to 200,000 people that everyone knows will show up to vote in November.

There are many people who vote in Houston in even-numbered years but generally not in these odd-numbered municipal election years. For example, there were 398,337 votes cast in the city of Houston in 2010, including 350,000 in the red light cameras referendum and 340,000 in Renew Houston. There were 590,566 votes in Houston in 2012, with vote totals ranging from 417,000 to 446,000 for various charter amendments and bond referendums. I don’t think traditional city election advertising, whether on TV, radio, the Internet, or in newspapers, is geared to or noticed by these larger groups. These folks, I suspect, need to be informed that there is an election, that they have a stake in it, and that there’s a candidate that might appeal to them. I suspect as well that more direct contact – door knocking, phone calls made by actual people, that sort of thing – is the key to getting their votes.

Every candidate wants to get as many votes as they can from that core 180 to 200 thousand group, since they each represent a vote that would then not be going to their opponents, but at least some of these candidates need to tap into that harder to get larger group as well. Adrian Garcia, who is likely to do very well among a group (Latino voters) who are far more likely to show up in Presidential years than non-Presidential years, is one such candidate. Fortunately for him, he’s already run in two Presidential-year elections, so there’s a lot of people out there who have already voted for him at least once. Sylvester Turner, who is used to running in even-numbered years, is another. When the 30-day and 8-day reports come out, look in them for evidence of field-related expenses. That will tell you what you need to know about this aspect of voter outreach.

Finance reports come trickling in

As always, the Mayoral reports lead the story.

BagOfMoney

Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia closed out the first half of the year with more than $1.3 million in the bank, eclipsing City Councilman Stephen Costello by a mere $7,423.

According to their campaign finance reports, Garcia raised $1.5 million and spent just over $122,000, while Costello raised about $30,000 less in contributions, was loaned $90,000 and spent $496,000.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner and former mayor of Kemah Bill King trailed in cash on hand, reporting $1.1 million and $544,000, respectively.

[…]

Costello’s campaign previously said his funds include a $250,000 personal contribution and a $262,000 transfer from his council account.

Among those with reports already in, King spent the most in the first half of the year, coughing up more than $680,000. He raised more than $755,000 and lent himself an additional $500,000.

Turner’s expenditures came in just under King’s, at $601,000, according to his report. However, his campaign noted that $125,000 of those expenditures were related to his state office, not his mayoral campaign.

After starting the race with about $900,000 in the bank from his legislative account, Turner raised an additional $763,000 in the nine days between when his state fundraising blackout period ended and the close of the reporting period.

See here for more. As previously noted, the reports are not in their usual place due to changes in state law and the reporting system. For now, you can see the reports that the city has posted here. I’ve linked to them on my Election 2015 page and will keep updating that as more of them appear. I’ll do a more in depth look at the reports once they’re all there, starting with the Mayorals, which were added to that page as of last night. Expect that for next week.

The Chron story has a spreadsheet embedded in it with totals for candidates who had turned in reports by publication time. Among the other Mayorals, Chris Bell had raised $381K and had $190K on hand; Ben Hall raised $94K and loaned himself $850K to have $812K on hand; and Mary McVey had raised $60K and loaned himself $1.075M to have $1.071M on hand. Forget the price of oil, this Mayoral campaign will be stimulating the local economy over the next few months.

So far, mayoral fundraising has far overshadowed that for Houston’s second-highest political post, city controller.

Deputy controller Chris Brown reported raising $270,000 and spending $22,000, leaving him with more than $222,000 in cash on hand.

Meanwhile, Bill Frazer, runner-up in the 2013 controller’s race, raised $129,000, received $32,000 in loans, spent $120,000 and closed out the first half of the year with more than $53,000 in the bank.

Former Metro board member Dwight Jefferson lagged behind with $11,000 raised $1,800 loaned and $9,000 spent. It was unclear how much cash he had on hand.

Carroll Robinson had raised $50K and had $5K on hand; Jew Don Boney did not have totals posted. Other hauls of note: Amanda Edwards dominated At Large #4 with $165K raised and $118K on hand. Laurie Robinson was the runnerup with $43K and $26K, respectively. In At Large #1, Tom McCasland ($141K raised, $98K on hand) and Lane Lewis ($104K raised, $62K on hand) were far out in front; Chris Oliver raised $37K and had $23K on hand, while Jenifer Pool had not yet reported. CM Michael Kubosh was the only one with any money in At Large #3, raising $63K and banking $44K. Philippe Nassif had a very respectable $73K raised in At Large #5, but only $12K of it remained, far less than CM Jack Christie’s $100K cash on $124K raised; Durrel Douglas had not yet reported.

For district races, CM Mike Laster had a big haul and an equally big financial lead in J, while CM Richard Nguyen had a decent total in F. His opponent, Steven Le, did not have a report up as of last night. There was surprisingly little money raised in the two-person District G race; Greg Travis led in cash on hand over Sandie Moger thanks to a $41K loan to himself. Roland Chavez had the most raised and the most on hand in H, with Karla Cisneros and Jason Cisneroz a notch back. Abel Davila raised a small amount but loaned himself $20K to be even in cash on hand with the other two.

That’s it for now. For the other races, HISD and HCC reports lag behind the city’s – HISD by a little, HCC by a lot – so I’ll keep an eye on those and update as needed. As always, fundraising is just one aspect of one’s candidacy, and is in no way predictive in many races. We only get a few chances a year to see who’s funding whom, and this is one of them. I’ll have more when I can.

Campaign finance reports may be a bit more interesting this cycle

And by “interesting”, I mean in the Chinese curse sense. From the city’s campaign finance reports page:

BagOfMoney

In April 2015, the Texas Ethics Commission released a new Electronic Filing Application. The changes made have to do with the separation of the types of contributions and political expenditures. Though these changes are minor, they require substantial modification to the databases that facilitate the electronic filings that campaigns will be making.

The Mayor’s Office, City Secretary, Legal Department, and the Houston Information Technology Services Department are working diligently to modify the database in a way that will allow electronic filings that comply with the amended TEC requirements. We do not currently have that database available, and will be providing daily updates to enumerate the status of the database reconstruction. In the meantime, if you intend to file before the deadline of July 15th at 5 p.m., the only current option available will be to file by paper in the City Secretary’s office. To produce a report that will satisfy the requirements enumerated by the TEC, you can go here to file as a local candidate and print the PDF, which you can then submit to the City Secretary’s Office in person, or via email at citysecretary@houstontx.gov. The instructions on how to file are enumerated by the photo set below. The Texas Ethics Commission has also issued detailed instructions and troubleshooting information available here.

Until further notice, the City of Houston will not be enforcing Chapter 18 Sections 18-103 and 18-104.

If you have any questions, you may email Steven David in the Mayor’s Office at steven.david@houstontx.gov, or Danielle Folsom in the Legal Department at danielle.folsom@houstontx.gov.

Otherwise, we will update this site once daily to show the current status of the database and its ability to receive electronic filings.

As of 07.14.2015 at 9:00am, the filing database is not working.

Via Campos, who reports that campaigns were informed about this last Thursday. I don’t know what this will mean exactly from my perspective as someone who examines finance reports and posts them to a webpage, but it definitely looks like they won’t be appearing just yet – usually by this point there are at least a few early filers up, but there has been nada so far this year – and at the very least I’ll have to get used to a new look. On the plus side, it may make it easier to add up the in-kind donations, which as we have discussed may make a current report or two look different than it sounds. We’ll see about that. All I know for now is that I want to see ’em, and I wish this could have gone better. Maybe by the time the 30 day reports are due, I hope.

Your daily Paxton update

This guy. I can’t even.

Ken Paxton

Despite promising last year to “wind down” his involvement in dozens of real estate and business ventures, Attorney General Ken Paxton continued to expand his holdings in 2014, according to personal financial documents.

Paxton pledged during last year’s campaign to begin divesting from his sizable business portfolio and funnel these investments into a blind trust after his political opponents raised concerns about conflicts of interest.

During the decade he was in the state Legislature, Paxton’s holdings grew from two businesses and real estate investments to 28 last year. Among those was a Dallas-based computer company that has been investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly defrauding its investors.

Personal financial disclosure forms Paxton filed at the end of last month show he became involved in three new businesses in 2014.

“As we stated we would during the campaign, we organized a blind trust and placed appropriate assets into the trust,” Paxton spokesman Anthony Holm said in a statement Monday. He did not respond to further requests about which or how many interests Paxton had divested or placed in the trust. He also did not answer several questions about why the attorney general continued to increase his business interests in 2014 despite Holm’s assurances last October that Paxton was “trying to liquidate or wind down many of these investments.”

The Chronicle also found Paxton did not disclose his involvement in one, Cherokee Children’s Camp LLC, on his filings for the last four years.

Holm said the attorney general did not need to include Cherokee in his filings.

“Concerning the Camp, my understanding is General Paxton has no interest in this entity nor has he ever; should an expanded filing be appropriate, then I expect our lawyer will do so.”

The Texas Secretary of State website lists Paxton as the president, secretary and treasurer of Cherokee Children’s Camp and Paxton’s residence as the principal place of business. Cherokee does not have a website or other online advertisement detailing what it is, but two business-related websites list it as a “women’s clothing store” in McKinney. Calls to the Robert Hultstrand of Frisco, who is listed as a “member” on Cherokee’s online documents, were not returned.

Asked how Paxton could have “no interest” in the camp, while acting as its president for multiple years, Holm said, “you can absolutely be president or treasurer or anything else of a business and have zero interest in it.”

Okay then. Just as Ted Cruz says a lot of incredibly stupid things for a supposedly smart guy, Ken Paxton sure says a lot of things that are demonstrably not true for a guy that’s supposed to be such a holy roller. I was always taught that lying was a sin, but then I’m a heathen, so what do I know. Your Attorney General, ladies and gentlemen.

Initial Mayoral fundraising totals

Lotta money being raised out there, though not quite as much as the topline totals say.

BagOfMoney

Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia was first out of the gate with his figures, announcing Tuesday that he raised $1.5 million since announcing his candidacy in May. According to his campaign, Garcia neither contributed his own money nor transferred funds from his sheriff’s account.

Former Mayor of Kemah [Bill] King followed with a statement Wednesday morning saying he raised $1.25 million, $750,000 of which came from donors, meaning King likely supplied $500,000 for his own bid.

[CM Stephen] Costello [who reported raising $1.8 million total] also financed his own campaign to the tune of $250,000 and transferred $262,000 from his city council account, according to his release.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner reported raising $750,000 in the nine days between the end of the state legislative fundraising blackout and the close of the reporting period. Turner started the race with $900,000 from his legislative account already in the bank.

Meanwhile, 2013 mayoral runner-up Ben Hall raised nearly $800,000, according to his campaign, $500,000 of which he donated himself.

Former Congressman and City Councilman Chris Bell ended the reporting period with the lowest number of the group, having raised $400,000.

Businessman Marty McVey and others who have filed to run for mayor have yet to release their fundraising totals.

Couple things here:

1. Money you donated to your own campaign is not money you raised. It’s real money, and it has a real effect, but it is not the same thing. I suspect that the reported self-donation totals here don’t quite tell the full story, but we won’t know until we see the reports.

2. Not all of those “money raised” figures is actual money, whether self-donated or not. In kind donations often make up a big chunk of some finance reports. Some of that represents real value – donated campaign office space, for example, or food and drink for a campaign event – but a lot of it is just plain puffery. Again, we’ll know when we see the reports. Note that the larger the in-kind donation total, the greater the disparity will be between total raised and total on hand, since in-kind ain’t money.

3. The other factor affecting cash on hand, of course, is how much you spent, and on what. Some campaigns wind up spending a lot more on consultants and other things that don’t exactly equate to voter outreach than others.

4. And yes, this stuff matters, which is why I spend time on it. You want to know who a candidate is appealing to, one way or another, finance reports don’t lie. They’re a peek behind the curtain, and no matter how you feel about the process, it’s better to know who’s financially tied to whom. (Nice Cyndi Lauper reference, btw. I always liked that song.)

For now, this is what we know. I will be going over all the reports when they come out, and will have them uploaded and posted to my 2015 Election page for your perusal. I’ll do a few posts summarizing and analyzing what’s in the reports as well. As always, money isn’t everything, but a campaign that can raise it and knows how to use it can be much more effective than one that can’t and doesn’t. Stace has more.

UPDATE: More from Greg.

Election 2015 page is up

If you look at the top of my homepage, you will see a tab up in the top right for my Election 2015 tracker. It’s a listing of all the candidates that were known to me at the time I put this together, with webpages and January campaign finance reports as I could find them. I am certain that I am missing some candidates, so tell me who I overlooked and I will add them. I’ve heard rumors that Helena Brown will be back for Round Three against Brenda Stardig in District A and that Ramiro Fonseca will be back to challenge Manuel Rodriguez in HISD III – I’ve also heard that Rodriguez will retire – but as yet I’ve seen no solid evidence of any of that. The filing deadline isn’t till around the beginning of September, so there’s plenty of time for things to happen. The July finance reports will flush out a few unknown-to-me-at-this-time hopefuls as well. For now, this is what I know. Tell me what you know that I don’t know, and I’ll update it. Thanks.

Getting nasty in Pasadena

Pasadena Mayor Johnny Isbell is not on the ballot this year, but he’s definitely involved in the Council elections.

A political action committee (PAC) with ties to Pasadena Mayor Johnny Isbell contributed more than $20,000 to three candidates in the current city council election and funded a series of attack ads targeting Pasadena City Councilmember Cody Ray Wheeler, who is running for re-election to his second term as the District D representative.

The Citizens to Keep Pasadena Strong received only one contribution during the last reporting period, a $35,000 donation from the Johnny Isbell campaign account on March 11, according to recent campaign finance reports.

The PAC’s expenditures totaled $21,302.56 and included contributions totaling $7,153 to District E candidate Cary Bass, $7,111.46 to District D candidate J.E. “Bear” Hebert and $7,037.25 to District C candidate Emilio Carmona.

Campaign records indicate from the total, each candidate received $3,500 for “in-kind grassroots development” with the remainder spent for direct-mailers for each candidate.

Although several direct mail pieces sent by the PAC target incumbent District D candidate Cody Ray Wheeler, his opponent “Bear” Hebert said he had nothing to do with the contents of the mailers.

See here, here, and here for the background. The story neither shows the other side of this mailer, which is where whatever evidence the attackers have for their allegation would likely go, nor explores the truth value of it, so there’s not much for the casual reader to go on here. Wheeler has responded with two mailers of his own – there are others against him similar to the one shown above that have been sent as well – but he could easily be outspent; he tells me that Isbell has shelled out over $66K in this election, a huge amount for a small city like Pasadena.

In some sense the specifics of all this mail don’t matter, since this is really all about Mayor Isbell and his ongoing efforts to consolidate power by installing a more amenable Council for himself. The redistricting scheme was a part of that as well. The best antidote for that is for Isbell’s opponents to win their elections. Early voting is over in Pasadena – I have no idea how it’s going, as that information is not readily available – and Election Day is Saturday, May 9. If you’re in Pasadena and you want a Council that isn’t just a bunch of yes men for the Mayor, then CM Cody Wheeler is one of the candidates you ought to be supporting.

January campaign finance reports – HCC Trustees

There are nine trustees on the HCC board. With them serving six-year terms, in a normal year three trustees are up for re-election; 2013 was an abnormal year, with two extra races to fill out unexpired terms. We are back to normal this time, so we have three races. As with HISD, at this time all incumbents that are up are currently expected to run for re-election, and no opponents have emerged at this early date. Here are the incumbents in question.

Adriana Tamez, District III

Dr. Tamez won one of those two special elections from 2013, to fill out the term of Mary Ann Perez, who stepped down after winning in HD144 in 2012. The candidate she defeated in the runoff was one of two supported by Dave Wilson, so that was extra sweet. (Speaking of Wilson, he nominated himself for Board President at the start of this year, but had to withdraw after no one seconded him. Then, to add insult to injury, Zeph Capo, who defeated Wilson’s buddy Yolanda Navarro Flores in 2013, was elected Board President. Sucks to be you, Dave.) Tamez was elected Board Secretary for this year.

Sandie Mullins, District VI

Sandie Mullins, formerly Meyers, is serving her first term on the Board. She was elected in 2009 without facing an opponent to fill the seat formerly held by now-State Rep. Jim Murphy. (Mills Worsham was named to replace Murphy in 2007 after his initial election in HD133, then Worsham ran for Council in 2009 instead of a full term on HCC.) Like Murphy and her ex-husband, HISD Trustee Greg Meyers, Mullins is a Republican, one of two on the board along with you-know-who. She is herself an alumna of HCC, and serves or has served on a number of other boards.

Eva Loredo, District VIII

Under normal circumstances, Eva Loredo would not be on the HCC Board. She didn’t file for the race in 2009, against incumbent Abel Davila. No one did, and on filing deadline day Davila was expected to run unopposed for re-election. Except that he decided at the last minute not to run, and instead his brother-in-law Art Aguilar filed. That led to a medium-sized crap storm, which led to Aguilar’s withdrawal. Loredo had by then submitted paperwork to be a write-in candidate, with some assistance from the late Sen. Mario Gallegos, and with no other candidate on the ballot, she won. She would be on the ballot this time.

As for finance reports, you may recall that as recently as 2011 it was damn near impossible to lay one’s hands on HCC Trustee finance reports. I claim a small measure of the credit for changing that situation. Be that as it may, the fact that these reports are now available online at this link doesn’t mean that they’re available in a timely fashion. Despite the fact that the city, the county, the school board, and the state all had theirs up within a day or so of the January 15 deadline, HCC still had nothing more recent than last July’s as of yesterday. So those are the totals I will include, pending them getting off their butts and updating this information.

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== Tamez 7,150 15,392 7,000 610 Mullins 0 1,878 0 18,400 Loredo 0 492 0 2,004 Oliver 8,225 6,060 0 2,165

So there you have it. I’ve included the totals for Chris Oliver as well, since he is now running for Council. I’ll update all this in July, and ought to have my Election 2015 page up by then as well.

January campaign finance reports – HISD trustees

Four HISD Trustees are up for re-election this year. There are nine Trustees in all, and they serve four-year terms, so in a normal year either four or five are up for re-election. As things stand right now, all four incumbents would be running for re-election, which would be the first time there would be no open seat since at least 2001; Harris County Clerk election records only include HISD results as far back as that. Here’s a brief look at those incumbents, along with their January finance reports and a summary of their campaign balances.

Rhonda Skillern-Jones, District 2

Skillern-Jones is serving her first term as HISD Trustee. She was the only candidate in 2011 to succeed Carol Mims Galloway. After serving as Board Secretary last year, she was elected to be Board President this year. Prior to the redrawing of Trustee district boundaries last year, hers was one of two districts to absorb schools and students from the former North Forest ISD. She officially announced her intent to run for another term a few weeks ago via email and Facebook. As far as I know, she was the first Trustee to make such an announcement, and is the only one whose plans are known so far.

Manuel Rodriguez, District 3

As noted, there are four Trustees that would be on the ballot this year if they all do run. Of the four, I’d gladly vote for three of them if I lived in their district. The fourth is Manuel Rodriguez, who disgraced himself in 2011 by sending an anti-gay mailer as an attack against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. (Fact I did not realize until I scanned through old election results in researching this post: Fonseca also opposed Rodriguez in 2003, when the seat was last open. He finished third in the field of four.) Rodriguez eventually offered a lame apology for his actions, which caused the Houston Chronicle to retract their endorsement of him, after winning an excruciatingly close vote. There was a bit of a hubbub initially, then everyone moved on to other things. I hope everyone remembers this, and that the voters hold Manuel Rodriguez responsible for his despicable behavior if he does choose to run this year.

Paula Harris, District 4

Paula Harris is serving her second term on the HISD board, having won an open seat race in 2007. A prominent supporter of HISD Superintendent Terry Grier, she served as Board President in 2011, during some of the more turbulent times of the Grier era. She was also the focal point of some conflict of interest allegations at that time, which eventually led to a revamp of the Board’s ethics policies. Despite that, she won re-election in 2011 easily over token opposition, and has had a much quieter second term. Harris is an engineer who has published a children’s book encouraging kids to explore engineering, and has been a booster of STEM education on the board.

Juliet Stipeche, District 8

Juliet Stipeche, who served as Board president last year, is finishing her first full term in office. She won a special election in 2010 to fill a seat left vacant by the resignation of then-Trustee Diana Davila. She was one of the driving forces behind that ethics policy revamp, which occurred in 2012, before the last bond referendum. She has also been one of the more active critics of Superintendent Grier, though as noted things have been quieter on that front of late. Her district also contains some former North Forest ISD territory. In my opinion, she’s one of the Board’s best members.

So that’s my brief overview of the incumbents who are up for re-election. As noted, so far there are no open seats. I am also not aware of any declared opponents as yet. Here are the January finance reports for these four:

Skillern-Jones
Rodriguez
Harris
Stipeche

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== Skillern-Jones 18,215 12,119 0 9,345 Rodriguez 0 0 0 340 Harris 0 1,500 12,000 0 Stipeche 5,500 7,162 0 15,618

The HISD Board does not have a Council-like blackout period, so incumbents and candidates were able to raise money during 2014. Rhonda Skillern-Jones was the busiest of the four, but I wouldn’t read too much into any of this. We’re very early in the cycle, and the one thing I feel confident saying is that we don’t know what kind of Trustee races we’re going to get yet.

By the way, Dave Wilson also hates transgender people

I mean, no surprise, right? What’s more, he puts his money where his mouth is.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Now, anti-LGBT activist Dave Wilson is circulating another petition that would place a charter amendment on the ballot to repeal trans protections in both HERO and Mayor Annise Parker’s 2012 executive order covering city employees.

Wilson, of Houstonians For Family Values, led efforts to pass a charter amendment prohibiting domestic partner benefits in 2001. He also made headlines in 2013 when he deceived voters into thinking he was black to get elected to the Houston Community College board.

Houston resident Sheri Taylor Bockelman, the mother of trans activist Nikki Araguz, said she received the petition in the mail along with a letter from Wilson on Saturday. (View images of the mailing below.)

“Enclosed please find our petition to prohibit men from using the women’s restroom and women from using the men’s restroom,” Wilson’s letter states. “Yes, you read the first sentence correctly.”

The letter goes on to state that both HERO and the executive order prohibiting discrimination against trans city employees “allow men to use the women’s restroom if they perceive or express themselves as women.”

See here for some background. Unless I’m confused, the executive order in question was in 2010, not 2012. There’s an image of Wilson’s latest mailer at the link above. Note that it is dated January 9, which means that it’s a separate expense from the one recorded in the January 15 finance report of his PAC. We won’t know till July how much he dropped on this one. If his address database includes people like Nikki Araguz’s mom, it’s highly likely that most of what he’s spending will be wasted. Which is fine by me – I hope he keeps it up till he bankrupts himself. TransGriot has more.

Not really related to this but worth including: We don’t really know much about the state of the transgender community in America, but what we do know tells us that these people face a lot of obstacles. I for one favor doing what we can to remove those obstacles. I definitely do not favor adding more of them. Finally, if you haven’t already done so, go read Nancy Sims’ account of how she came to understand and love her transgender child.

January campaign finance reports – San Antonio

As we know, while we wait for the Mayoral field to shape up here in Houston, there’s already a hot open-seat race going on in San Antonio, featuring now-former State Rep. Mike Villarreal, State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (who has submitted a letter of resignation but is staying on until her successor is sworn in), and former County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson. Let’s get the easy part of this post out of the way first:

Tommy Adkisson
Leticia Van de Putte
Mike Villarreal

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ================================================== Adkisson 0 5,000 5,013 0 Van de Putte 129,679 62,465 0 197,516 Villarreal 201,454 149,466 0 189,801

Those are just the city campaign reports. As former (or soon to be former) holders of other offices, all three also have at least one other finance report for January out there:

Tommy Adkisson – Bexar County
Leticia Van de Putte – TEC report
Leticia Van de Putte for Lt. Gov. SPAC – TEC report
Mike Villarreal – TEC report

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== Adkisson 80,975 54,779 0 0 Van de Putte 152,094 54,790 0 197,516 VDP SPAC 754,295 1,525,162 0 237,432 Villarreal 82,195 86,989 0 189,801

The identical totals for Van de Putte and Villarreal are not coincidences. They have one balance, but two accounts that are presumably used for different purposes. (I don’t know what if anything Van de Putte may be doing with her SPAC account.) Randy Bear summarizes the situation.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

You see, whereas the City of San Antonio has campaign finance limits of $1,000 from either individuals or SPACs, the state has no limits. In fact, it’s not uncommon for donors to give in the tens of thousands to state candidates during the course of the year. So these accounts could reflect donations that exceed the limits imposed by the City in its attempts to control special interest influence.

To top that off, remember that Van de Putte also ran for Lieutenant Governor this past year? In that election, where the stakes were much higher, her campaign raked in over $2 million. In fact, some donors gave as much as $100,000 to the campaign. At the January 15th filing, that warchest still had almost a quarter of a million dollars in it. That’s after transferring over a half a million dollars to the state party right before the election.

So, this starts to unfold some questions about where the money came from and might end up. So far, Van de Putte has transferred a little over $17,000 from her Lieutenant Governor campaign fund to her candidate fund. Since she’s still a state officeholder, there are technically no limits on those amounts.

The City’s Campaign Finance Code allows a candidate to maintain a single candidate fund for both offices. But there is a limitation as stated in the Code – “However, if the candidate seeks a municipal office which is subject to lower campaign contribution limits than the previously sought office, the candidate shall return all contributions in excess of the limits for the municipal office sought.”

Mike Villarreal

Mike Villarreal

Furthermore, the Code states that “Contributions transferred must be aggregated with any contributions made by the same donor to the committee receiving the transfer. Amounts that would cause a contributor to exceed his or her pre-election cycle contribution limit must be excluded from the transfer.”

What this means is that any contributions exceeding the city’s limits must be returned to the donor. The problem is that since Van de Putte is still a state officeholder, she continues to incur expenses in fulfilling the duties of that office. In fact, with regards to activities, it’s difficult to tell when she is acting in the role of state senator or candidate for mayor at functions. So any expenses could be construed to be for her role as a state officeholder, such as tickets to events or traveling around the city.

Villarreal has already resigned from his state office and has publicly stated in his report that no expenditures were paid from the account for the final acts as state representative. In other words, he’s closed the books as a state representative and all actions forward are for the mayoral race.

This is the first time since our city enacted these campaign finance regulations that such a situation like this has presented itself. It creates a challenge for our City’s Ethics Review Board on what money is legal and what may cross a line.

It’s not clear what Van de Putte plans to do with her money in the Lieutenant Governor SPAC. Until she resigns the senate, she can continue to transfer money into her candidate fund since she is still a state officeholder. That could give her a substantial financial advantage over Villarreal, even if the money was contributed to an entirely different race from people with different intentions for the money.

As you can see, one candidate has worked to establish a clear delineation of the money. The other has left it ambiguous while remaining a state officeholder. It’s just part of the fun we can expect with this mayoral race.

Emphasis in the original. There are some obvious parallels to Houston here and the legal jousting over Rep. Sylvester Turner’s campaign account, but there are also two key differences. One is that as far as I can tell San Antonio doesn’t have a fundraising blackout period, so that the activity by these candidates didn’t come at a time when others would have been locked out. The other is that there isn’t (again, as far as I can tell) an interested party with a similar grievance as Chris Bell in Houston. All three San Antonio Mayoral hopefuls were incumbents of some kind last year, and all three were running for one office or another. One could argue that Villarreal, running for an easy re-election against a Green Party opponent, had the advantage during this time. Regardless, no one in this race has a financial advantage of the order that Sylvester Turner does in Houston. Given that, it may not be in any of their interests to make an issue out of this. No guarantees there, and if another candidate emerges all bets may be off, but if I had to guess right now I’d say that this is something none of these candidates are that interested in talking about.

Others may make an issue of it, however, and it is at best a very gray area. Some clarity would certainly be nice, but I have this nagging feeling that if push comes to shove, the most likely outcome is for San Antonio’s contribution limits, which are considerably smaller than Houston’s ($5K for individuals and $10K for PACs), to get thrown out for being too restrictive. As Randy notes, there are no limits on contributions to state campaigns, and while there are federal contribution limits, the rise of super PACs make them almost irrelevant. In our post-Citizens United world, I have a hard time seeing how strict contribution limits – in either city – could withstand close legal scrutiny if someone chose to push the issue. (And just so we’re clear here, that is very much an outcome I would not like.) As a matter of crass political calculation, the best move by folks who think there’s already too damn much money in politics might be to recognize the unusual nature of this year’s race and let things play out as is. We may never see another race like this one in San Antonio again, and with the blackout period disabled in Houston we may not have another situation like the Bell/Turner one again. Just a thought.

January campaign finance reports – PACs

PetitionsInvalid

Mayoral reports
Controller reports
Council reports

There are a lot of PACs that play in Houston’s elections. It’s hard to keep up with all of them, and I say this as someone who reads far more campaign finance reports than is healthy. Very few of them file finance reports with the city of Houston – I presume this is because most of them are state organizations that operate in elections elsewhere as well, so they file their reports with the state. This year there were three special purpose PAC (SPAC) reports that caught my eye and that I thought were worth examining, so here they are.

Citizens to Keep Houston Strong
Equal Rights Houston Committee
Houstonians for Family Values

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== CtKHS 0 539 0 65,405 Eq Rts Hou 67,143 39,712 0 27,430 HFV 3,401 47,689 44,238 0

Citizens to Keep Houston Strong lists one William H. “Bill” White as their filer and treasurer. I have no idea what this PAC is for. It’s been around since White was Mayor – Penny Butler was the filer through 2010 – and has basically done nothing since he left office. If you go to the city’s campaign finance webpage and choose “Specific-Purpose Political Committee”, you will see that PACs come and go over the years. Some are for (or against) particular candidates, others are for specific referenda, like Renew Houston and red light cameras. I’m not sure what if any rules exist for disposing of PAC funds – candidates have a certain amount of time to dispose of campaign funds once they are no longer in office or seeking office – so who knows, this one could be around for awhile.

The purpose of the other two is more obvious. “Houstonians for Family Values” is Dave Wilson’s ugly baby – that $44K in loans is all from him. The reason the amount is so specific is because the total amount spent represents the cost of printing and postage for a mail piece. The fact that this PAC has no cash on hand should not lead anyone to conclude that it will be inactive this year. It surely won’t be the only such PAC this year whether or not we have to vote on HERO repeal, but at least we can say that Dave Wilson was there first. As for Equal Rights Houston, most of their money was spent on consultants. I’m going to guess that they’ll have other things to spend their money on this year.

January campaign finance reports – Council

CM Jerry Davis

CM Jerry Davis

Mayoral reports
Controller reports

Four Council members are term limited this year. Two, CMs Stephen Costello and Oliver Pennington, are running for Mayor. The other two, CMs CO Bradford and Ed Gonzales, do not have any announced plans at this time, though both were on the list of Mayoral possibilities at one time or another. While there are some known candidates for these offices, there are many more to come. No one who isn’t or wasn’t a candidate before this year has a finance report, and no one has any contributions to report, so the data we have is somewhat limited.

Brenda Stardig (SPAC)
Jerry Davis
Ellen Cohen
Dwight Boykins
Dave Martin
Richard Nguyen
Robert Gallegos
Mike Laster
Larry Green

David Robinson
Michael Kubosh

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== Stardig 0 21,191 0 59,517 Davis 0 6,091 0 97,563 Cohen 0 23,304 0 63,769 Boykins 0 5,845 0 1,129 Martin 0 20,345 0 34,339 Nguyen 0 20,120 0 15,020 Gallegos 0 7,326 0 45,021 Laster 0 5,791 0 78,216 Green 0 45,671 0 55,983 Gonzales 0 35,987 0 29,603 Brown 0 3,858 0 34,900 Robinson 0 1,565 0 48,334 Kubosh 0 17,403 10,000 0 Bradford 0 12,282 0 20,088

I’ve included the totals for Helena Brown above, since rumor has it that she’s aiming for a rubber match against Brenda Stardig in A. Beyond that, the two numbers that stand out to me are Boykins’ and Nguyen’s. Boykins was the big dog in 2013, nearly winning a first round majority in a very crowded field. I presume he emptied his coffers in the runoff, I haven’t gone back to look at his last reports from 2013 and his January 2014 report to confirm that. He burned some bridges with his vote against the HERO last year, so it will be interesting to see how things develop from here. As for Nguyen, he came out of nowhere to knock off Al Hoang in F. He then made a courageous vote for the HERO and announced that he was a Democrat. All of these things would put a target on his back even if he had a big cash on hand balance. As for Kubosh, he did a lot of self-funding in 2013, and I’d expect at least some more of the same. It will be interesting to see how much of the usual suspect PAC money he gets. We’ll have to wait till July to find out.

January campaign finance reports – Controller wannabes

CarrollRobinson

Like the Mayoral race, the 2015 race for City Controller is wide open, as incumbent Ronald Green is term-limited. There are three candidates of which I am aware so far – HCC Trustee and former At Large city Council member Carroll Robinson, who formally announced his entry last November; 2013 Controller candidate Bill Frazer, who hasn’t made a formal announcement of which I am aware, but whose campaign website is still live; and Metro Board member Dwight Jefferson, who was kind enough to publicly acknowledge his interest in the office yesterday. I have heard other names bandied about for this office as well – former Council member and Mayoral candidate Peter Brown has come up in conversation, and I have heard rumors that Some People are trying to get Council Member Stephen Costello to switch races to this one – and I’m sure there are other possibilities.

As far as finance reports go, the only ones to reference are for Robinson and Frazer. Robinson has to file biannual reports as an HCC Trustee. They don’t have their January reports posted yet on the HCC Trustees website, so the best I can do for now is his July 2014 report. Frazer still has a city account from 2013, so he has a report on the city’s website.

Carroll Robinson
Bill Frazer

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== Robinson 1,820 3,700 25,000 21,637 Frazer 0 3,503 0 160 Green 0 14,402 0 28,563

Incumbent Ronald Green’s totals are included as well for comparison. Not a whole lot to see here. Robinson was first out of the gate with a fundraising email on January 13, right after the injunction against the city’s blackout ordinance was handed down, but that wouldn’t have affected his January report anyway. Frazer ran a solid campaign in 2013 and gained a fair amount of traction against incumbent Green, who had some baggage to carry, but it’s not clear how much of that will stick in an open seat race. Controller races are often low-key, and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the many Mayoral hopefuls makes the strategic decision to shift into this race, which if nothing else might provide a nice head start on the 2021 Mayoral campaign. And yes, my soul just died a little by the act of me typing that sentence. Anyway, this is what we have for now.

January campaign finance reports – Mayoral wannabes

State Rep. Sylvester Turner

State Rep. Sylvester Turner

I wrote yesterday about the start of the 2015 campaign season in Houston, and how it’s started a bit early thanks to the ruling in the lawsuit filed by Trebor Gordon that invalidated the blackout period. This week also marked the January 15 finance report filing deadline, so now is as good a time as any to see who has what. The Gordon ruling really had no effect on the January filings – it came way too late for that – so as I’ve said before, the real story of its effect will be told in the July reports, when we can see who raised what during January. Because the blackout was in effect last year, several Mayoral candidates have no reports to file as yet – Chris Bell, Marty McVey, and Joe Ferreira fall into that category. Bill King did file a report, but only had some expenditures to list. Folks like Stephen Costello, Oliver Pennington, and Jack Christie have existing city finance accounts and thus had reports to file for their activity; Ben Hall still has his account from the 2013 race; and of course current holders of other offices like Rep. Sylvester Turner, Sheriff Adrian Garcia, and Treasurer Orlando Sanchez filed reports with their respective authorities. (In Sanchez’s case, since he would not be on the ballot until 2018 if he stays put, he was not required to file a January report he does not have a January report on the County Clerk website that I can find; I have his eight-day report from last year linked.) So without further ado:

Sylvester Turner
Stephen Costello
Oliver Pennington
Ben Hall
Jack Christie
Bill King
Adrian Garcia
Orlando Sanchez

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== Turner 657,227 121,719 0 1,014,424 Costello 0 35,324 15,000 273,001 Pennington 0 126,039 0 116,632 Hall 0 26,300 2,000,000 59,300 Christie 0 11,404 0 4,080 King 0 7,300 0 0 Garcia 175,681 350,030 0 57,213 Sanchez 18,041 14,115 200,000 1,258 Locke 0 0 0 4,065 Parker 0 57,109 0 350,695

I included reports for 2009 candidate Gene Locke and Mayor Parker for the heck of it as well as for purposes of comparison. It will be interesting to see if Mayor Parker, who has her eye on a future statewide run, does any fundraising this year.

Turner’s report, with its sizable cash on hand total, and Garcia’s report, with its much less sizable COH number, are the ones that have attracted the most attention. You can see why Chris Bell really wants to enforce a $10,000 limit on the amount Turner could transfer to a city account. A million dollar head start is a big obstacle for him or anyone else to overcome. Turner, for his part, ramped up his fundraising last year in the expectation of being able to transfer it all because now that the Lege is in session, he’s on the sidelines until at least May unless he decides to resign, which I would not expect. As for Garcia, who has held some recent fundraisers for his county account, he could likely bring in some money quickly once he announced, if he does. But as Campos notes, the clock is ticking. The longer he waits, the harder it will get and the more likely that some of the deeper pockets will commit themselves to someone else. You have to figure that if he intends to get into the race, it will happen in the next month or so.

Beyond that, not too much to see. Jack Christie and Bill King can both do a certain amount of self-funding, though probably not to the extent that Ben Hall has done. I can only marvel at his outstanding loans figure, which I’ll bet goes up even more. Costello and Pennington have both shown to be strong fundraisers in past elections. I have no idea about McVey and Ferreira or whoever else might be thinking about it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s only so much space for viable candidacies in the Mayoral race. With a cap on how much and individual and a PAC can give in a cycle, there are only so many deep pockets to tap. Mayor Parker has done very well with a big network of small-dollar donors, but that sort of thing doesn’t happen overnight, and one usually has to have an extensive personal network to begin with. Like I said, the July reports will tell us a much more detailed story. I’ll check out the other finance reports in future posts. Stace has more.

UPDATE: A couple of people have asked me about the statement that Orlando Sanchez didn’t need to file a January report. I could swear that I saw something to that effect in the Chronicle, but now I can’t find where I saw it. So, since I can see that Stan Stanart, who also would not be on the ballot till 2018, has a January report filed, I’ve changed my wording above. My apologies for the confusion and for not being more skeptical of that.

And they’re off

Gentlemen, start your fundraising engines.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

The Twitter handles have been rechristened, the first attacks have been fired and the “DONATE!” buttons have gone live.

The yearlong slugfest for mayor of Houston has begun.

In what is expected to be Houston’s most wide-open mayoral race in recent history, most of the dozen potential candidates are shedding their coyness after the traditional Feb. 1 starting gun was quieted by a federal court ruling last Friday that cleared the way for them to begin asking for their first dollars immediately.

Seven candidates have not been bashful about their intent to run: Rep. Sylvester Turner, former Congressman Chris Bell, former Kemah mayor Bill King, current council members Stephen Costello and Oliver Pennington, former airline executive Joe Ferreira; and 2013 candidate Ben Hall, who lost to Mayor Annise Parker, who is in her third and final term.

“Let the games begin,” Parker said Wednesday.

And they have.

Nearly every campaign has hired its top strategist and is sifting through the resumes of the potential campaign managers, fundraisers and spokesmen who they can now pay to implement that strategy.

[…]

For the candidates still dithering over a bid, they no longer have the luxury of effortlessly keeping pace with their competitors. Businessman Marty McVey, who previously said he was considering a run, now plans to designate a campaign treasurer next week. Sean Roberts, a personal injury lawyer, is a probable entrant, but has not committed to the race. And council member Jack Christie, who also is weighing a bid, continued to indicate this week that he would hold off on a race unless he knew if the business community would finance his bid.

Two other candidates, who must at least pretend to be undecided for legal reasons, still loom over the race: Harris County Sherriff Adrian Garcia, considered a top-tier candidate if he launches a bid as expected, and Orlando Sanchez, the county treasurer. Both would have to resign their offices under state law to run in a race they very well could lose.

Yes, that ruling has had an effect. I expect my inbox to fill up with invitations and solicitations shortly and quickly. With still more new names surfacing (Joe Ferreira?), no one’s email address is going to be safe.

Finance reports are slowly appearing on the city of Houston reporting site. I’m going to try to slog through the interesting ones this weekend and post a few tidbits. Later, I’m going to post a series of mini-manifestos to highlight the sorts of things I want to see discussed in this campaign. I’ve also got an opening look at the other races that will be on the ballot on my to do list. It’s going to be a long campaign, and it’s already well underway. Houston Politics has more.

Injunction granted against Houston fundraising blackout period

It’s a whole new ballgame out there.

Trebor Gordon

Trebor Gordon

A federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked a law limiting when candidates in Houston municipal elections can raise money, prompting a scramble to contact donors sooner than campaigns had intended.

The injunction, two months after a City Council candidate said the law infringed on his constitutional rights, could reorder the timeline for future elections and accelerate this year’s mayoral race – the first without an incumbent since 2009.

An ordinance prevented city candidates from raising money prior to Feb. 1. But hours after the ruling from U.S. District Judge Sim Lake, some mayoral campaigns said they were planning fundraisers and placing calls to donors who were thought to be off-limits for three more weeks.

“There’s not that many days, but political calendars will start to shift based on this ruling,” said Mustafa Tameez, a longtime Democratic consultant. “It creates more pressure for people to announce sooner.”

The lawsuit against the city, filed by candidate Trebor Gordon, argued that his First Amendment right to political expression authorized him to raise money for his campaigns whenever his contributors wished to donate. Lake said in the order that Gordon was likely to succeed on the merits in the case.

“It’s a great victory for the First Amendment,” said Jerad Najvar, the attorney for Gordon, who plans to begin raising funds immediately. “It’s a bigger matter than just this campaign.”

See here and here for the background, and here for Judge Lake’s ruling. This is only an injunction – the merits of the case have not been decided – but it seems clear from that ruling that Gordon is very likely to prevail. I won’t be surprised if the city, which has chosen to accept this ruling rather than appeal it, seeks a settlement. In the meantime, anyone that has filed a designation of treasurer for the 2015 elections can start raising money now. If your mailbox is still a smoldering wreck from all the solicitations it had to handle last year, its brief period of respite is now officially over. You have been warned.

As I’ve said before, I think this was the correct ruling. I also think it will benefit incumbents more than challengers, but we’ll see. The January finance reports will be posted soon, so we’ll get a picture of where things stood going into the year – in particular, who had an advantage prior to the opening of what had been the fundraising season – but the July finance reports will tell the story. We’ll need to look for all donations made in January and see who took the biggest advantage of this change in the rules.

One more thing:

Still unclear Friday was how the decision would affect a separate lawsuit filed by likely candidate Chris Bell, who charges that Rep. Sylvester Turner’s fundraising strategy violates the ordinance. Bell’s attorney said Friday afternoon that he still planned to follow through with his suit, which will be heard in court Monday.

See here for the background on that. The crux of that issue is whether Turner, and possibly Sheriff Adrian Garcia, who were free to raise all the money they wanted for their non-city campaign accounts under the old rules, could then transfer those funds to accounts to be used for a city election. Then-City Attorney David Feldman said that they could, and Bell filed suit to stop it. I’m hard pressed to see how Bell prevails here, but let’s wait and see what arguments he and his attorney present in court.

Special elections roundup

I haven’t seen any newspaper endorsements in the special elections that will conclude on Tuesday. I can tell you that the Texas Parent PAC has endorsed Diego Bernal in HD123 and John Cyrier in HD17. In the absence of further endorsements to report on, here’s a news roundup based on Google searches of the various candidates.

In SD26, it’s all about the money.

Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer

Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer

A powerful special interest group that has contributed millions of dollars mostly to state Republicans over the years is targeting Democrat Trey Martinez Fischer’s bid to fill a vacant Senate seat.

And now Martinez Fischer is attempting to draw connections between the group, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, and his main opponent in the race, Democratic state Rep. José Menéndez.

TLR is the richest and most influential tort reform group in the state, and its political action committee has already spent close to $180,000 to influence Tuesday’s special election in District 26, state records show. That includes research and polling, along with TV ads and mailers blasting Martinez Fischer.

In a campaign memo released Wednesday, Martinez Fischer leveled his strongest public accusations to date about links to the group and Menéndez, claiming the head of TLR has personally made calls to help Menéndez and to “thwart” Martinez Fischer’s own fundraising efforts.

Martinez Fischer, in the memo, goes on to note that TLR contract lobbyist Ed Lopez was named earlier this month as part of the Menéndez finance team and then claims another unnamed lobbyist working for the group recently held a fundraiser for Menéndez.

[…]

“In my estimation, José’s relationship with TLR is obvious,” Martinez Fischer says in the memo.

On Wednesday, Menéndez remained steadfast that he’s not in cahoots with the group.

“It is obvious to me that Trey is desperate to try to create a connection between TLR and myself that doesn’t’ exist,” he said. “We’re running our campaign, and we’re not in a position that we feel like we need any help from outside sources.”

Menéndez also said that Lopez, the TLR lobbyist Martinez Fischer cited in his memo, is a personal friend dating back to his days on San Antonio City Council, and that “he’s a supporter of mine because he believes in me as a person.”

TMF has greatly outraised Menendez, though a lot of his donations have been non-local. Both candidates are spending heavily on TV ads. When the first order of business is to make sure people are aware that there is an election going on in the first place, you do what you have to do.

Meanwhile, the candidates in HD123 are trying to be heard over that volume.

The ballot includes three Democrats: businesswoman Melissa Aguillon, former San Antonio City Councilman Diego Bernal, and Walter Martinez, also a former city councilman, who served in the Texas House in the ’80s.

The lone Republican is insurance agent Nunzio Previtera. Clinical psychologist Paul Ingmundson is the Green Party candidate, while Libertarian Roger Gary rounds out the ballot.

Gary, like the others, has education reform high on his list. He wants to get back to the basics, like, he says, teaching basic math. ”I’ve asked some other people who say they’re doing it all on computers; people’s grammar and spelling and math, let’s get back to those basics. That’s what we need. The rest of the stuff they’re squabbling about, what’s in a high school history book? Well, who cares if they can’t read and write.”

Republican Nunzio Previtera wants schools to put as much emphasis on vocational training as they do on college preparation. “The primary goal of our school system needs to be to provide our students with opportunities to prosper as working adults, get them ready to be adults. Our magnet schools have done a pretty good job, but they need to be expanded, and our primary schools need to put a lot more emphasis on vocational skills and training people for their adult life.”

Paul Ingmundson went to UT Austin, where he paid $50 a semester. He says college tuition today is outrageous. He wants the first two years of college to be free. He’d pay for that by taxing oil and gas producers. “We can address the fossil fuel problem and the education problem with one policy change. I think even Republicans are going to start to get used to this. They are going to look around for money, and if you’re going to look around for money, the deepest pockets are in the oil and gas fields.” 


More affordable higher education and technical training are also high on the agendas of Democrats Melissa Aguillon and Walter Martinez.

“It was challenging for my parents to put me through college,” says Aguillon. “I actually had to pretty much fund my own college tuition, and so, I want to make sure that higher education is accessible for all students that want to go to college.” But she adds, there are far more career paths available to those students now, and far more jobs being created, “21st century jobs that don’t necessarily require a four-year education.”

“I think it’s important that the necessary skills for trades are also accessible to them,” says Aguillon. Fellow Democrat Martinez agrees, and adds, “The delivery and implementation of workforce training, also providing technical training, to be able to provide the workforce that modern technology requires, those are all part of the agenda as far as supporting public education.”

Democrat Diego Bernal says the first bill he’d file would overhaul the way the state decides how much money each school district will receive. “The very first one I would file would have to do with public education and the formula that we use to pay for students who are either economically disadvantaged or English language learners. There’s a formula they use to give districts extra money and that formula hasn’t been updated since the mid-’80s. So if you want to know what my very first attempt at a bill would be, that would be it.”

Here’s an Express News overview of this race. The SA Current did Q&As with four of the candidates in the HD123 race – with Diego Bernal, Melissa Aguillon, Walter Martinez, and Roger Gary. They also profiled Bernal and noted that Aguillon had received financial support from a Georgia-based auto title loan business owner.

As for HD17, news is a lot harder to find. What little I have is from the Gonzalez Inquirer. Here’s their overview of the race:

Republican candidate John Cyrier, 41, of Lockhart, was in town Monday morning for a brief rally at the Roger M. Dreyer Memorial Airport to kick off early voting. He arrived by air in his Cessna Skylane II— which appropriately sported the colors red, white and blue.

[…]

The other Republican in the race, Brent Golemon, 46, of Bastrop, got a taste of politics early in life. Golemon worked as a legislative aide and chief-of-staff at the capitol after graduating Hampden-Sydney College while his father was a 35-year lobbyist in Austin.

Golemon co-founded GalleryWatch, the nation’s first online legislative tracking service in 1996, which was sold eight years later. His current occupation is listed as “entrepreneur.”

The closest Golemon gets to an elected office credential is a stint on the Tahitian Village Property Owners Association and a board appointment to the Bastrop County Water District. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching six-man football at a Christian-based athletics program for home-schooled and private school families.

The first of two Democrats on the ballot is Ty McDonald, 43, also of Bastrop. She is a 1993 graduate of Texas A&M University and is married to former Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald.

McDonald’s early education into elected public service was as legislative director for State Rep. Yvonne Davis in the early 90s. She also served as campaign coordinator for John Sharp during his failed bid for comptroller.

After serving as a public school teacher for seven years, she was elected to a single term to the board of the Bastrop Independent School District. Her last year was served as president of that body.

After flirting with a run for state rep earlier this year, McDonald switched races to challenge incumbent Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape. She lost that contest in November.

The other Democrat is Shelley Cartier, 51, yet another candidate from the Bastrop area. Her business card describes her as a non-politician and small business owner.

On the issues, she supports local control and small growth. Public education is also in her platform and she says she is a “defender of property and water rights for all.”

In her spare time she advocates for the humane treatment of animals and hosts several rescue horses on her property.

Rounding out the list is the lone Independent candidate, Linda Curtis, 63, the final Bastrop resident. Her tagline is “If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em!”

They also have a profile of Cyrier.

Cyrier hails from Caldwell County where he and his wife Rachelle live on a ranch south of Lockhart. His political fact sheet touts many accomplishments for the 42 year-old—successful businessman, past county commissioner and former commander of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band. He now wishes to be State Representative for District 17, which includes Gonzales County.

His business career began after he received a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Texas A&M University. A couple of stops in the general contracting business and branch office management led him to launch Sabre Commercial, Inc. in 2008, a commercial construction services company specializing in general contracting. It employs 51 people and has won numerous distinctions from the Austin Business Journal including a nomination for Best CEO Award in September.

“I surround myself with good people and I take care of them,” said Cyrier. The good working morale has led Sabre to three top-10 “Best Places to Work in Central Texas” designations from the Journal.

Cyrier’s political career began in 2010. There was a vacancy on the commissioner’s court in Caldwell County and longtime County Judge H.T. Wright, Jr., a Democrat, picked Cyrier based on his community accomplishments. The judge knew that he would take heat for the appointment since Cyrier was a Republican, but he saw a need to balance the court and invite all ideas to the table.

Turns out that Cyrier was only the second Republican to ever hold a seat on the court. Party designation didn’t matter to most voters, for he was elected outright later that year by 60 percent of the ballots and was named Judge Pro-Tem in 2012.

“I loved being a county commissioner,” he said.

Cyrier decided to serve out his term but opted not to run in the general election in 2012. He figured that he could do just as much good for the community away from the commissioner’s court than he could on it. The list of boards on which he currently serves include: Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), Caritas of Austin, Lockhart ISD Education Foundation, Caldwell County Republican precinct chair—and the list goes on — prove just that.

During the Thanksgiving holiday he received a call from Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape. Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt had resigned and the county’s leadership was looking for a candidate to promote. One GOP candidate had already popped up in Bastrop, but they were looking for something more. They believed that Cyrier had the vision to be the district’s next leader.

With the added urging of longtime Bastrop County Commissioner Clara Beckett, Cyrier decided to run and continue his community service at the elected level. Soon he had a list of supporters that any candidate would envy.

There are three things that Cyrier lists as top priorities in the upcoming legislative session: education, water and infrastructure. Luckily for District 17, all three topics resonate throughout the five rural counties he would represent.

On education, Cyrier already counts superintendents from Bastrop, Smithville, Karnes, Lockhart, Gonzales and a host of other education professionals as supporting his candidacy.

He shows a strong command of the issues facing public schools in the state. His concerns are on elected officials that look to defund public education to send dollars elsewhere. Oftentimes school is the only place a child can eat a regular meal for breakfast, lunch— and more often now— even dinner.

Diverting public dollars would have an adverse affect on education, especially in communities like this one where the school system is the major employer. Cyrier looks to be a strong advocate for these independent school districts.

He also draws a parallel between the growth the district has seen based on underground resources—water to the north and oil to the south. Where Bastrop County has seen sprawl eat on its western flank, water developers look to siphon off the precious resource to far-flung housing developments throughout the I-35 corridor and down to San Antonio. Similar concerns can be seen here.

The other boom is down south with the shale explosion in the Eagle Ford. Gonzales County is experiencing growth and road degradation associated with this as is its neighbor to the south, Karnes County. Cyrier understands this and how public infrastructure funding is so important to the area.

Since all five counties in the district are still largely rural, he feels that the area shares the same challenges.

So there you have it. If you live in one of these districts, please make sure you vote.

Abbott’s actions in the Hecht ethics case belie his “just doing my job” evasion

More accurately, it’s his lack of action that speaks clearly about his priorities and discretion.

Still not Greg Abbott

Attorney General Greg Abbott, accused of favoritism in his handling of an ethics case involving a Texas Supreme Court justice, says it’s not his duty to press the case that has sat idle for two years.

That reasoning, however, doesn’t stand up, according to an American-Statesman review of state law.

The issue began in 2008, when the Texas Ethics Commission fined Chief Justice Nathan Hecht $29,000 for violating campaign finance rules by getting a $167,200 discount on legal fees. Hecht appealed to Travis County district court, arguing that the agency misinterpreted state law.

With Abbott’s office defending the Ethics Commission, several years of sporadic action followed — until all activity ceased two years ago.

Defending the inactivity, an Abbott spokesman last week said his office wasn’t motivated to press the case because the ruling against Hecht remained in force — placing the onus to act on the chief justice.

But state law says otherwise.

The moment Hecht filed his appeal, the Ethics Commission judgment against him was vacated — or rendered void — to allow a Travis County district judge to conduct an independent review of the charges against him.

Legally, there is no judgment in place against Hecht, placing the onus to act on lawyers with the attorney general’s office.

[…]

Buck Wood, an Austin lawyer specializing in election law — mainly representing Democrats — said appeals of Ethics Commission rulings are rare, but the result is the same in every case.

“Once they appeal it, no enforcement action can be taken because it does vacate the decision,” Wood said. “The ethics fine is basically put on hold, and if (Abbott) doesn’t prosecute it, it’ll never get prosecuted.”

The inactivity is even harder to explain because Abbott’s lawyers believe Hecht’s appeal was improperly filed and should be tossed out.

A motion to dismiss the appeal, filed by the attorney general’s office in June 2012, argued that Hecht lawyer Steve McConnico failed to ask the Ethics Commission to reconsider its judgment against Hecht — a necessary first step before an appeal can be pursued in district court.

McConnico filed a brief rebutting the claim, and the last activity in Hecht’s appeal came in October 2012, when both sides filed responses trying to poke legal holes in each other’s arguments.

See here for the background. The 2012 filings weren’t included in the timeline of events put together by Texans for Public Justice, who has filed suit to toss Abbott off the case and appoint a special prosecutor that will actually do something, but the overall point stands. Nothing can or will happen in this case until one side or the other takes action, and since Team Hecht has no incentive to do anything – he’s in the clear for the time being, after all – that means Abbott needs to quit jerking around and do his job. Keep that in mind the next time you hear Abbott piously muse about how pursuing endless appeals of same sex marriage rulings and the like are “just doing his job”.

TPJ files suit against Abbott over Hecht ethics case

Here we go again.

An Austin legal watchdog group filed suit Wednesday to force action on a $29,000 ethics fine, levied against Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht in 2008, that has languished on appeal for 5½ years.

The motion from Texans for Public Justice seeks to remove Attorney General Greg Abbott from the case, saying Abbott has violated his legal duties by failing to pursue the case on behalf of the Texas Ethics Commission, which levied the fine.

“(Abbott) has helped his friend, former colleague and political ally by allowing the case to be inactive and dormant,” the motion said.

[…]

In Wednesday’s motion to intervene in Hecht’s appeal, Texans for Public Justice asked the court to disqualify Abbott, Republican candidate for governor, as the lawyer representing the ethics commission.

“By permitting, aiding and abetting, and acquiescing in almost six years of delay, Attorney General Abbott has violated his fundamental constitutional and statutory duties to ‘defend the laws’ of Texas and ‘represent the state in litigation’ … and he has failed to collect the fine that should have been collected years ago for the benefit of Texas taxpayers,” the motion said.

See here for a bit of background. The TPJ press release fills in the details.

Hecht’s troubles date to the short-lived 2005 nomination of his ex-flame Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hecht’s promotion of Miers to conservative groups and the media drew a Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct rebuke for violating state prohibitions on political activism by jurists. Arguing that the First Amendment trumps judicial canons, Hecht attorney Chip Babcock overturned the admonishment in 2006.

Hecht’s victory spawned new ethical issues. The Texas Ethics Commission ruled that Babcock’s discounted legal fees amounted to an in-kind contribution to Hecht worth $100,000. Hecht failed to report this contribution, which exceeded judicial campaign limits. Following a rare formal public hearing, commissioners ordered Hecht to pay a $29,000 fine on December 11, 2008. Justice Hecht appealed to a Travis County court on January 27, 2009 and the Attorney General quickly filed a response on behalf of the Ethics Commission. Since those filings in early 2009, the case has languished. Setting a record for the longest appeal of a state ethics fine, the case runs the risk of being dismissed for lack of prosecution.

“Abbott has a duty to prosecute this cold case and collect from Justice Hecht,” said TPJ Director Craig McDonald. “Instead, he has sat on his hands for six years to protect a friend and political crony. Texas law recognizes no crony exception. It’s time for Abbott to act—or to find someone who will.”

TPJ’s motion asks the district court to remove Abbott from the case if necessary and to impose appropriate sanctions for “his extraordinary and egregious pattern of inaction and neglect in apparent deference and favoritism toward his friend and former colleague.”

TPJ’s filing argues that Abbott’s inaction violates provisions of the Texas Rules of Judicial Administration, Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, Texas Lawyers Creed and statutory and constitutional obligations of the Attorney General to promote the timely administration of justice. Abbott’s office, which has absolute discretion to aggressively pursue such matters, claimed in 2014 that plaintiff Hecht alone is responsible for advancing the case. Were this true, any defendant could beat any Ethics Commission rap simply by filing an appeal and then ignoring it.

I noted the five-year anniversary of the case last December. I get that TPJ could have timed the filing of their complaint differently, but come on. Abbott has time to file a zillion lawsuits against the federal government while simultaneously defending losers like the same sex marriage ruling, the school finance ruling, and the voter ID ruling, but he can’t assign a junior attorney or two to push some paper on this? His priorities as AG have always been the interests of the Republican Party first, and everything else second. There’s really no excuse for this. You can see the complaint TPJ filed here, the Ethics Commission order against Hecht from 2008 here, and their timeline of events here.