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Big Money Hits AISD Elections

Huge cash from IT millionaires, teacher PAC in trustee reports

By Richard Whittaker, 11:54AM, Tue. Oct. 16, 2012

Big  Money Hits AISD Elections

With all the recent debate about contributions in city of Austin elections, everyone forgot there are no limits in Austin ISD campaigns. The latest finance reports show that big money rolling into the Nov. 6 trustee elections, with the Education Austin PAC flexing its muscle, and three IT millionaires dropping cash in the at-large fight.

Austin ISD released the latest campaign finance reports in all four races late last week, covering the three months up to Sept. 27. Obviously, with six weeks between the end of the reporting period and election day, there's still a chance for a lot of money to be dropped into these races. With Christine Brister backing out of defending her seat, the forces within the district that fear change (or, rather, fear the idea of added accountability at AISD central administration on West Sixth) are probably panicking.

The big question now is whether another PAC gets involved, or whether anyone else has friends with deep pockets. The bigger question? Since the trustee elections are buried at the bottom of the ballot, will voters even be able to find them?

Here's the seat-by-seat breakdown (incumbents marked with a *)

District 2

Candidate Total Raised Total Spent Cash on Hand
Sam Guzman* $4,405 $100 $3,894.59
Jayme Mathias $16,915 $6,910.79 $9,884.88

Will money matter as much as the ground game in this race? Hard to say. What's easy to say is that there's some old feuds and political clashes in this fight. Guzman picked up $500 from US Hispanic Contractors Association de Austin chair (and occasional East Austin kingmaker) Frank Fuentes, while Mathias has former state rep and professional thorn-in-side Glen Maxey in his corner. Mathias has also been successful at pulling in cash from all across Austin, but the biggest indicator may be the smallest sum: Contributions less than $50. That's the kind of money you make from passing the hat around at supporter meetings, and Mathias leads Guzman in those nickle and dime donations 11-to-one, $1,490 to $130.

District 2

Candidate Total Raised Total Spent Cash on Hand
Christine Brister* $0 $0 $0
Ann Teich $8,555 $4,195.14 $4,379.86

Was Brister ever really in this race? Her withdrawal last week, due to medical issues, may have been telegraphed by her complete lack of fundraising.

District 5

Candidate Total Raised Total Spent Cash on Hand
Amber Elenz $13,569.98 $2,082.44 $9,391.00
Charlie Jackson $6,166 $4,225 $2,941

Elenz's biggest contributions come from the cycling world: $1,000 from Lance Armstrong, and another $2,500 from Jeff Garvey, vice chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Aside from that, her biggest contribution was $2,500 worth of design and website work.

Jackson lags behind severely, having joined the race late. If it wasn't for $5,000 from Education Austin, and a $700 in-kind contribution from the Texas Democratic Party for voter file access, he'd barely be a financial blip.

At-Large Place 8

Candidate Total Raised Total Spent Cash on Hand
Gina Hinojosa $36,812.76 $25,221.39 $28.165.96
Mary Ellen Pietruszynski $50,753.22 $15,520.11 $38,765.55

Pietruszynski is already taking flack because over 80% of her hefty war chest has come from three people. The bulk comes from the two co-founders of Silicon Labs, Nav Sooch and David Welland. The connection? Pietruszynski is executive director of the Sooch Foundation, Sooch's charitable trust. Between them, the pair donated $31,500. Throw on top of that another $9,550 from Vignette Corporation co-founder Neil Webber. The weirdest donation? Pietruszynski picked up $2,000 from the Texas Democratic Party, which is odd considering Hinojosa's dad Gilberto is TDP chair. However, lower those eyebrows a little: Like Jackson, it was for voter file access.

Biggest donors
David Welland: $25,000 to Mary Ellen Pietruszynski
Education Austin PAC: $25,000 ($10,000 to Gina Hinojosa, $5,000 each to Charlie Jackson, Jayme Mathias, and Ann Teich.)
Neil Webber: $9,550 to Pietruszynski
Nav Sooch: $6,500 to Pietruszynski

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