Martinez and Adler Trade Attacks

Mayoral run-off campaign quickly turns harsh

At an early morning Wednesday Barton Springs press conference, mayoral candidate Mike Martinez accused opponent Steve Adler of hiding his law firm’s previous work for Koch Industries, and benefiting from polluting the Springs. In turn, Adler called Martinez’s charges “false, desperate, and disappointing.”

Steve Adler and Mike Martinez

Martinez insisted he had “proof” that Adler’s law firm, Barron & Adler, had represented Koch Industries, but Adler had wiped the information from the firm’s website just before election day. And he reiterated earlier charges – initially reported in the online newsletter Austin Bulldog – that Adler had personally benefited from a land deal that eventually produced pollution of the Springs.

The “proof” turned out to be pretty thin soup – a generic firm client listing mentioning some unspecified work for Koch (a major polluting firm and also the fortune of the extremely right-wing Koch Brothers) which disappeared just before the Nov. 4 election. Adler said later that any such work had been done before he joined the firm (indeed, when he was still a UT-Law student), and that he has since represented clients fighting Koch over land condemnations for pipelines. Nevertheless, responded Martinez, if the firm of Barron & Adler had benefited from work for Koch, so had Adler.

The second charge was more substantive, but also more complicated – that Adler (through the law firm) owned an interest in a tract of land in the Barton Creek watershed, and sold it (in parcels over a period of years beginning in the late Nineties) for development under contractual impervious cover standards much more permissive than allowed under the Save Our Springs Ordinance. The story, reported in the Austin Bulldog (“Steve Adler Land Developer,” Aug. 5), quotes environmental attorney Brad Rockwell: “Adler’s real estate transaction almost certainly contributed to the pollution of Barton Springs.” Adler has responded that he was a minor partner in a standard real estate transaction, and that the land has subsequently been developed in accordance with the covenants governing that particular tract of land.

Here’s the prepared text of Martinez’s remarks:

"Yesterday, I asked Steve Adler to come clean about his law firm's business dealings with Koch Industries. I asked whether he or his law firm ever profited from working with them. Because the company's owners, Charles and David Koch, have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to rig the system against the middle class in favor of the very wealthy.

"The facts are clear and undeniable: up until right before the election, his law firm's online profile listed "Koch Industries" as a past client. Then it suddenly disappeared. Right before the election. We have the proof.

"Last night, Steve Adler admitted his law firm worked with Koch Industries for nearly a decade. But Steve Adler still hasn’t come clean about what work his law firm did for the Koch Brothers, and how much money they made from it. I think Steve Adler and his law firm are trying to cover up their Koch problem.

"He says he wants to talk about the issues. So let’s talk about the issues. The Koch Brothers have poured money into groups that deny climate change. The Kochs have funded organizations that fight against a woman's right to equal pay for equal work, and attack marriage equality.

"They fought unions and want tax cuts for the wealthiest among us. They spent vast amounts of money to defeat Wendy Davis and Barack Obama, and are one of the largest environmental polluters in the country.

"These are the issues. And spanning two decades, these are the people Steve Adler’s law firm chose to do business with.

"And if Steve Adler thinks he can cover up his past work with the Koch bothers, I've got news for him: Austin voters are smarter than he gives them credit for.

"Steve Adler had no problem with his law firm profiting from business with the Koch Brothers, so it should come as no surprise that he would personally profit from a land deal that polluted Barton Springs. According to independent news reports, this water was polluted because of Steve Adler. This is what is at stake.

"To some, it may just be another small body of water in Central Texas. But we know Barton Springs represents so much of what Austin is truly about. It's not just water. It's the hot summer day you spend with your family. It's the cold water you learned to swim in, and it's where you taught your children to swim years later. It's visiting your favorite food trailer with friends after a day at the springs.

"And if someone like Steve Adler becomes mayor, someone who doesn't mind water pollution and who does business with one of the nation's largest polluters, then all of that, all of those memories and experiences for future generations is at risk.

"Lucky for us, that is only one potential outcome of this election. Because there is a clear choice. As mayor, I will strengthen our pollution standards to protect Barton Springs and other bodies of water.

"The Koch brothers and Steve Adler may prefer tax breaks for millionaires, but I want to provide relief to middle class families in Austin. I have spent 22 years fighting for hardworking families in Austin. As mayor, I will continue to hold corporations accountable when they get tax breaks. Companies should pay their workers higher wages and benefits, and as mayor I’ll do everything I can to make that happen. I'll stand up to payday lenders who overcharge consumers, and I'll make sure that equal work means equal pay for women.

"This election is about which candidate will fight for middle class families. It’s about the company you keep, and the priorities you make. Special interests may have just won elections across Texas, but they don’t have to win the mayor’s race in Austin. With your help, we can win this runoff and ensure Austin stays the best city in America."

Adler quickly responded with a press release denouncing the charges as false – describing any work the firm had done for Koch as occurring when Adler was still a UT law student – and accusing Martinez of engaging in mud-slinging instead of addressing real issues facing the city.

Adler’s press release follows:

"Today, Mike Martinez leveled charges against me that are false, desperate, and disappointing.  I have never represented Koch or the Koch brothers. In fact, as recently as last month, my firm represented an Austin family against Koch Pipeline. I have represented hundreds of landowners against oil and gas pipeline companies.

"About 30 years ago one of my law partners represented a Koch company. I was in law school when that work started and never had anything to do with it. Mike Martinez doesn’t know what he is talking about, but he is losing this race because he has voted against homeowners, against taxpayers, against neighborhoods, and against the interests of middle-class families."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

November 2014 Election, Mayor & City Council, Steve Adler, Mike Martinez, December 2014 Run-off

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