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Rick Molina

Here comes the late money

The 8 days out finance reports are in, and it’s about what you’d expect.

Millions of dollars poured into Texas legislative campaigns during the past month as interest groups tried to maximize their influence and partisans readied for the upcoming fight over the redrawing of House and Senate districts.

Those millions, predominantly from business owners and trial lawyers, have allowed candidates in the Austin area and across the state to clog the television airwaves with their closing pitches before Tuesday’s election.

“Money flows late because late money follows the races that are being run effectively,” said Republican consultant Ted Delisi. “Because we have two weeks of early voting and we have a lot of polling, you can understand which campaigns are gaining traction and which ones aren’t, so you’re not betting blindly.”

Big-dollar donors and interest groups also give late so that the donors themselves don’t become lightning rods in the campaigns. Candidates did not have to publicly disclose contributions they received after Sept. 23 until Monday, when early voting was more than halfway over.

“The general consensus among operatives is, it’s too late to do anything with it,” Delisi said. “The election is 30 to 35 percent over right now.”

Yeah, this is the time to do the stuff you’re least proud of, because the potential for blowback decreases greatly with each passing day. There’s stuff about particular races in that story, and the DMN and EoW have more. As I didn’t see anything specific to Harris County, I figured I’d spot check a few races here to see who’s getting what. Here are the amounts raised since the 30 day reports:

Kristi Thibaut, $119,649
Jim Murphy, $172,222

Ellen Cohen, $100,279
Sarah Davis, $69,116

Dwayne Bohac, $113,955
Kendra Yarbrough Camarena, $36,815

Ken Legler, $178,299
Rick Molina, $85,969

Legler also collected $184,885 as of the 30 days out report after only taking in $82,135 for the first six months of the year. I’ve heard a rumble or two that he’s in a tighter race than originally thought. Make of this what you will.

Hubert Vo, $109,135
Jack O’Connor, $183,938

O’Connor is a great example of how the late money train works. Almost $170,000 of that total comes from five sources:

– Associated Republicans of Texas Campaign Fund, $40,000 cash
– Conservative Republicans of Texas, approximately $35,000 in kind
– Republican Party of Texas, $23,000 cash plus another $2,066 in kind
– Robert Rowling of Irving, TN (that’s Tennessee, not Texas), $25,000 cash
– Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, $40,000 cash plus $2,300 in kind

All for a guy who had raised about $65,000 on his own all year. He’s not the only one, of course – Legler got $125,000 from Speaker Straus. Murphy got a lot of assorted PAC money plus $25,000 from the Republican Party of Texas Texas Victory State Account plus a $9200 mailer from the RPT, $20,000 from Bob Perry, $10,500 from three members of the Trammel Crow family in Dallas, and $10,000 from TLR. Bohac also got help from the Speaker, $25,000 worth. I didn’t notice any other donations larger than $5K for him, nor did I see anything of the magnitude noted here for Davis. Again, draw your own conclusions about who sees what opportunities and threats.

Finally, on a tangential note, one unfamiliar name I saw in four of the five Republican reports (all but O’Connor) was a Curtis Mewbourne, of Mewbourne Oil, who handed out 16 donations of $5K each to various legislative candidates (plus a $75K gift to David Dewhurst) since September 24, all but two (incumbents Joe Heflin and Mark Homer) to Republicans. I note his name for future reference, since you know that sooner or later there’ll be some pro quo for all that quid.

Beware the stock photo

Here’s the best press release I received today, from the campaign of Rick Molina in HD144.

The front cover of a direct mail piece for endangered incumbent Ken Legler shows a photo of a doctor, standing with blue collar and white collar workers claiming that Ken Legler is fighting for jobs in Pasadena.

Only one problem — the presumably local workers from respective professions that have made repeated appearances on the pro-Legler mail don’t just look the part, they play the parts as well. The ‘group of professionals’ are not from Pasadena, or Texas, or the United States at all. Legler’s cronies at the front group Citizen Leadership PAC, who paid for the mail, outsourced the photo of “local workers.” It was bought from a stock photo site that offers the photo as a “portrait of people from different professions standing together on white.” The photo is by former Vaisnava monk Daniel Laflor, a photographer in Denmark. (http://www.laflor.dk/)

(The stock photo can be found at http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-11593417-group-of-people-from-their-respective-professions.php)

The mailer comes in the aftermath of the disclosure that Ken Legler has not only outsourced jobs from his manufacturing company, but has also placed a series of website postings looking for yet another Chinese manufacturing partner.

“It’s bad enough Ken Legler is directly responsible for outsourcing jobs to China,” noted Rick Molina, Legler’s challenger for House District 144. “But to have actors posing as our families reinforces that it is Legler who is nothing but a front for the same corporate interests who outsource jobs and disregard worker safety.”

“But knowing his record as most Pasadenans now do, I can see why local families aren’t willing to stand by his side,” Molina added.

A picture of the mail piece is here, courtesy of Trail Blazers.

Interview with Rick Molina

Rick Molina

Next up is Rick Molina, who is running in HD144 against freshman Rep. Ken Legler. Molina is an attorney and a longtime resident of Pasadena. He’s also a graduate of Rice University, which always counts for a little extra credit with me. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

Fundraising: Harris County State Reps

I’ve collected fundraising reports for Harris County State Rep races of interest; they’re all beneath the fold. Here are the highlights:

– In the rubber match between State Rep. Kristi Thibaut in HD133 and former State Rep. Jim Murphy, Thibaut has a slight lead in fundraising – she collected $116K to Murphy’s $112K – and cash on hand, $150K to $125K. I’m actually a little surprised there wasn’t more money raised in this race, but I figure by the time it’s all done at least double the amount raised so far will have been hauled in.

– Ellen Cohen has a commanding lead over Sarah Davis. Cohen took in $230K and has $265K on hand. Davis collected $54K, but thanks to a total of $114K in loans, all coming from Kent and Edie Adams beginning with the January 15 reporting period, she has $103K on hand.

– In HD138, Kendra Yarbrough Camarena did well, raising $106K, with $120K on hand. Dwayne Bohac clearly wasn’t taking any chances, as he raked in $201K, with $228K on hand.

– Possibly the biggest surprise was in HD144, where challenger Rick Molina out-raised first-term incumbent Ken Legler, $92K to $82K, and also held more cash, $23,597 to $11,545. It’s not clear to me why Molina’s COH figure isn’t higher, since he only spent $36K; Legler spent almost as much as he raised, $81K in all.

– As of last night, the reports for Hubert Vo and Jack O’Connor in HD149 were not available. According to the explanation, “the Ethics Commission may not make a report filed with the Commission available on the Internet unless all candidates and related specific-purpose political committees in a race have filed. To date, all reports in this race have not been filed. Therefore, this report is not currently viewable.” Note that there is a Libertarian candidate in this race as well. I’ll add these reports to the post when I find them.

As I said, other races of interest are posted below. Overall, I’d say the Democratic candidates have done a good job, with Republicans other than Legler and his puzzling cash shortage in decent shape, too. With no Congressional races of interest, and the County Judge race not evenly matched early on, these may be the highest profile contests in the county this year.

UPDATE: Vo and O’Connor’s totals are in. Vo raised $15K and has $37K on hand. He’s always done some self-funding, and has $95K in loans outstanding. O’Connor took in $12K and has $6500 on hand, but those numbers are a bit misleading. $10K of O’Connor’s contributions were two $5K in-kind donations, each for a month’s rent. He also reported $6K in a loan to himself on his detailed report, but for some odd reason that didn’t show up in the summary.

(more…)

The Valero effect

This is just what all of our cash-strapped local budgets need right now.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is not typically a big player in school finance debates.

But an upcoming decision by the commission could strike a major blow to the budgets of many school districts that will have to be made up, in part, by the state, lawmakers said on Tuesday.

At issue is a request by Valero Energy Corp. to apply a property tax exemption for pollution control equipment, approved by voters in 1993, to refinery equipment known as hydrotreaters. That equipment removes sulfur from gasoline and diesel that reduces auto emissions.

The agency’s executive director recommended that the request be denied because the rules require the equipment to provide an on-site pollution control benefit. But that decision was appealed by Valero and in January two TCEQ commissioners directed the agency to reconsider.

That decision is still pending.

The Chron wrote about this last week and then editorialized about it on Wednesday. I can’t quite fathom the rationale for the TCEQ allowing this, but I will agree with the Chron that it would have been better if the Lege had slammed the door on these shenanigans last session. They may have to address it next year whether they want to or not.

Rick Molina, who is running for State Rep in HD144, sent out a press release about this:

Rick Molina, candidate for Texas’s 144th House District, today asked Texas taxpayers to sign his petition opposing a plan pushed by Rick Perry and his Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) that would harm our local school districts and raise the tax burden on Texas’s property owners. The petition can be found at RickMolina.com.

“Rick Perry already increased taxes on small businesses and now many of them are having a tough time making ends meet and creating jobs,” Molina said. “Now, we see he is about to shift more tax burden down to property owners. I just cannot understand why, as the nation is trying to recover economically, Rick Perry believes raising Texans’ property taxes is a good idea. I want Valero to be a successful, profitable company, but it must do so without looking to shift its tax burden to Texas home owners.”

The full release is here. HD144 includes Pasadena, so extra kudos to Molina for taking this on.

On a tangential note, Valero is also busy out in California trying to gut that state’s clean air legislation. They’re quite the corporate citizens, aren’t they? I stopped buying gas at the Valero in my neighborhood when I noticed a poster on their pump urging people to call their Congressperson to oppose cap and trade. They won’t be getting me back any time soon, that’s for sure.

Rick Molina campaign kickoff

There was a lot of good news for Democrats in Harris County in 2008, but one place we fell short was in HD144, which had been left open by Robert Talton’s decision to try to be the Republican nominee in CD22. There will be another effort to win that seat this year as Rick Molina takes on freshman Rep. Ken Legler. Molina, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, will officially kick off his campaign tomorrow night at 6 PM in Pasadena. You can get the details here. If you’re in the area or you just want to support a good Democrat, check it out.