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Ethics, Libertarians, and Scalawags

Election notes

By Michael King, Fri., May 5, 2006

There are more campaign-finance ethics complaints than usual circulating this year, most of which can be credited to the diligence (some would say obsession) of the Travis Co. Libertarian Party. Libertarian treasurer Arthur DiBianca and state party executive director Wes Benedict (also a candidate for City Council) have been bird-dogging this issue since they discovered (last go-round) that all sitting council members except Mayor Pro Tem Danny Thomas had exceeded the limits on out-of-town (mostly near suburban) contributions. Only Betty Dunkerley has returned any of the money, but the problem lies behind Prop. 5's proposed change of the boundary definition to more readily identifiable ZIP codes. (Dunkerley also was tagged for more technical violations.)

Others have also filed complaints or raised questions about potential campaign-finance violations concerning this election. The most significant at this time appear to be:

• Clean Water Clean Government PAC: Opponents have charged that the Save Our Springs Alliance failed to report nearly $75,000 in previous charter-amendment petition expenditures last year, and then filed an affidavit last month "donating" those funds to the CWCG PAC. Bill Bunch of SOS told the online city politics newsletter In Fact Daily that the April filings cure the problem because "everything's disclosed." Campaign-finance expert Carl Richie told IFD that the CWCG/SOS filings are instead "a legal admission of prior violations of Texas campaign finance laws." (DiBianca has reportedly filed both an ethics and a criminal complaint.)

• Brewster McCracken: Sal Costello, of the Austin Toll Party and People for Efficient Transportation, has accused McCracken of illegally concealing funding "bundlers" (of multiple $100 contributions). McCracken has responded that there are no such bundlers, and the matter is pending in municipal court. PET may have its own problems, as Costello told IFD that the PAC intends to be a major player in next week's election – though it has failed to file the required 60-day advance notice with the city.

• Mike Martinez: DiBianca has charged that the Austin Firefighters PAC also failed to file its 60-day notice early enough before it began spending money in support of the Martinez campaign.

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