Election Notes

Who's Buying the Votes?

There were no dramatic surprises overall in the latest campaign contribution and expenditure reports filed May 5 with the Austin City Clerk, eight days before the May 13 election. The four council races break out pretty much where they were the last filing date, April 13. Mayor Will Wynn has an overwhelming funding lead over his opponent, Mayor Pro Tem Danny Thomas. Wynn raised $40,000 in the past month and had $25,000 on hand; Thomas had $2,300 to spend of $4,200 raised. (Candidate emerita Jennifer Gale, who reported neither contributions nor expenditures, has one new dubious distinction: a Web site where animated angels fly: www.jennifergale.com.)

The Place 5 race is nearly as lopsided as the mayoral campaign, although incumbent Brewster McCracken faces three opponents. McCracken collected $30,000 last month (nearly $100,000 overall), and his TV commercials are now streaming him down to $12,000 on hand. Opponents Mark Hopkins (not yet posted at press time), Kedron Touvell, and Colin Kalmbacher are all effectively broke. Kalmbacher does report two $100 contributors who might have made a much more interesting race on their own: engineers Bill Moriarty and Diane Hyatt, forced out of the city wastewater repair contracting program by allegations of impropriety, and perhaps hoping to stick in the needle for Moriarty's pending lawsuit against McCracken, City Manager Toby Futrell, et al.

The other races reflect more competition. In Place 2, Mike Martinez and Eliza May were each under $10,000 in cash on hand, but as a consequence of spending fairly freely on media. (Martinez may get a few thousand dollars' boost from funds already spent by the police and firefighters' committees, but those current reports are not large.) Wes Benedict appears to be cheerfully running on empty.

In Place 6, Sheryl Cole and Darrell Pierce each raised more than $20,000 in the last month, but Cole's $15,000 still on hand reflects an earlier war chest, and more money to spend on last-week media (Pierce has only about $5,000 left.) Long-shot DeWayne Lofton has stayed in the hundreds and has about $1,600 remaining.

None of these latest C&E reports are terribly newsworthy; the candidate money races essentially echo and reinforce the public campaigns. The late-thunder exception is the fierce public battle over Props. 1 and 2 – "clean government" and "clean water," if you will – which is also dramatically reflected in these last-week fundraising and spending reports.

There are three PACs primarily focused on these two propositions. One, the Educate PAC – "Environmentalists and Democrats United for Charter Amendment Truth and Education" – boasts an impressive group of supporters and endorsers (current and former council members, mayors, mainstream environmentalists), but it appears financially irrelevant – as of Friday, it had raised and spent virtually all of its $25,000, on a few ads and a mailer. The big money is in play between the Clean Water Clean Government PAC – effectively a financial dependent of the SOS Alliance and its big funders – and the Committee for Austin's Future, heavily funded by builders, developers, and various legal, banking, and real estate interests. A brief breakout of the major funding sources is at right – readers should refer to the full C&E reports for additional detail, especially since (unlike capped $100 contributions to candidates) contributions to these "issue" PACs are unlimited.

Since January, CWCG had raised roughly $351,000, most of it from several major donors, notably SOS itself (see "Cleanliness, Godliness, and Money") and oil and gas heir and developer Kirk Mitchell. (Other major donors were SOS board member Ray Goodrich, an oil and gas and real estate investor, and former City Council Member Beverly Griffith, who lists her current address as Crested Butte, Colorado.) Opposing the props, the Committee for Austin's Future had raised $406,000, with the biggest single donors being the Real Estate Council of Austin ($100,000) and the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin ($50,000).

Entering the final week, with TV ads on both sides, flying like convention confetti, the CAF reported $95,000 cash on hand. The CWCG reported $28,000 still to spend. Likely more is being raised and spent on both sides – but we won't know it until after Saturday.

Go forth and vote.

Specific Purpose Political Action Committees

Major donors, January through May

Prop. 1&2 Supporters

Clean Water Clean Government PAC

1) Save Our Springs Alliance: $211,000

2) J. Kirk Mitchell (investor, developer): 80,000

3) Ray Goodrich (investor, developer): 10,000

4) Jennifer Clark: 9,500

5) Beverly Griffith (former council member): 4,000

6) Glen Maxey (political consultant): 2,500

7) Mark Tschurr (investor): 2,500

8) Perry Lorenz (developer): 2,000

9) Nancy Scanlan (SOS board): 2,000

10) Medora Barkley (investor): 2,000

Total raised as of May 3: $351,000

Cash remaining: $28,000

Prop. 1&2 Opponents

Committee for Austin's Future

1) Real Estate Council of Austin: $100,000

2) Home Builders Assn. of Greater Austin: 50,000

3) Austin Apartment Association: 10,000

4) HOMEPAC (HBA PAC): 10,000

5) Peter Lamy (Lincoln Property Co.): 10,000

6) Trammell Crow Company: 10,000

7) Lumbermen's Investment Corp.: 10,000

8) Tate Austin (public relations): 7,500

9) Charles N. White Construction Co.: 7,500

10) 21 donors @ $5,000 each (banking, legal, real estate): 105,000

Total raised as of May 3: $405,000

Cash remaining: $95,000


1) Michael Levy (publisher): $10,000

2) Drenner & Golden LLP (law firm): 5,000

3) Time Warner Cable: 5,000

4) Armbrust & Brown LLP (law firm): 2,500

5) Susan and Gary Farmer (title co.): 1,000

Total Raised as of May 3: $24,375

Cash remaining: $1,300

Source: C&E Reports filed with the City Clerk, www.ci.austin.tx.us/election/cfreports.htm

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