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Charge It: Council Cash on Hand

A flurry of last-minute fundraising – and charges and counter-charges between mayoral candidates

By Amy Smith, Fri., May 11, 2012

Charge It: Council Cash on Hand

The final campaign finance reports by City Council hopefuls – filed May 4, eight days before the May 12 election – often become breakneck contests of their own, especially in competitive races, where candidates must demonstrate they have the financial strength to power through the campaign's final days. In that respect, all the incumbents running for re-election proved they've still got their mojo, largely because they have not disappointed their base supporters or the lobbyists and other professionals who deal directly with City Hall.

A quick look at what's transpired since last week in the most heated race: At a press conference on Monday, mayoral candidate Brigid Shea charged that incumbent Lee Leffingwell violated city campaign finance laws by taking more than $8,000 from two dozen people with ties to Circuit of the Americas, the local Formula One operation, without identifying the person who "bundled" the contributions as required under city campaign finance laws. Leffingwell campaign consultant Mark Littlefield said the money wasn't bundled because it was handed directly to the mayor by 12 or 14 people at Jo's coffee shop, where he had stopped for lunch after filming a campaign ad on Con­gress Avenue before returning to City Hall. (Campaign treasurer Susan Harry listed May 2 as the date of receipt on the reports, he said, because that's the date she accepted the checks.) He said some people at Jo's handed the mayor more than one check, but because the total amounts were under $5,000, the campaign wasn't required to report them as bundled. The F1 associates had contacted the campaign to ask if there were any upcoming fundraising events before May 2 and were told no, but that Leffingwell would be at Jo's and could personally accept the contributions there, Littlefield said. "The bottom line is that [Leffingwell] has no history or record of ever trying to not report bundling, and has always gone above and beyond" what candidates are required to report, he said.

Although the lion's share of F1 contributions went to Leffingwell's campaign, each of the four incumbents received funds from F1 associates. Only Bill Spelman, running for another term in Place 5, reported that his contributions came from a single source, Circuit of the Americas President Steve Sexton.

The bundling claims made by Shea, however, quickly shifted to another F1 story angle. Hours after Shea's press conference, the mayor's campaign released a statement accusing Shea of soliciting a paid consulting job from F1 last summer, and produced a memo that she wrote with recommendations for how the project could be made "legitimately sustainable." Shea said the memo was written to Ian Davis of the Sierra Club, who was talking to a number of environmentalists about how the local community could take F1 to a new level of green. Davis said Shea had told him she was interested in a paid consulting job with F1, and Sexton and F1 lobbyist Richard Suttle have told other media outlets that Shea was soliciting work from them. Davis, who is married to Leffingwell policy aide Amy Everhart, took an indefinite leave from the Sierra Club this week. See "Then There's This," for more on the campaign charges and counter-charges.

Here's a breakdown of candidates' eight-day-out fundraising reports in each race:

Mayor: Leffingwell raised $59,044, spent $107,058, and the campaign was left with $54,387 to spend and an outstanding self-loan of almost $61,000 from a previous mayoral campaign. Shea raised $30,854, spent $39,745, loaned her campaign $40,000 (on top of $25,000 in the previous reporting period), and had $84,550 remaining. Clay Dafoe raised $1,250, spent about $597, loaned himself $676, and maintained $1,336 on hand.

Place 2: Incumbent Mike Martinez took in $56,435, spent $67,545, and reported $79,869 on hand. Opponent Laura Pressley raised $14,220 and spent all but about $1,000.

Place 5: Incumbent Spelman raised $32,575 and spent $15,890, leaving his campaign with $46,442. Opponent Tina Cannon raised $3,300; Dominic Chavez raised $3,150; and David Conley, John Duffy, and Robert Pru­dente each reported raising no funds.

Place 6: Incumbent Sheryl Cole raised $43,110, spent $26,537, and was left with $58,283. Candidate Shaun Ireland reported $595 in contributions.

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