Is BATPAC Also a Highway Brat PAC?

Better Austin Today accepts money from a bad guy

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows Depart­ment: Listed as a major $1,000 contributor to the presumably left-wing Better Austin Today Political Action Committee, on its most recent campaign finance report, is none other than Jim Skaggs – a board member of the Travis Repub­lican Advisory Council PAC. Yet the most vocal BATPAC fliers are purist progs like Bill Bunch and Brigid Shea. So what's up with taking money from Skaggs? Since retiring as CEO of high tech giant Tracor, Skaggs has infamously been the region's most vocal opponent of mass transit – while serving on multiple key transportation committees and the Envision Central Texas board. In engineering the narrow defeat of the 2000 light rail referendum, Skaggs and other transit-haters weakened central city support by persuading anti-growth progressives, enviros, and liberal-voting neighborhoods to "get in bed with the devil" (as Jean Mather of South River City Citizens joked to the Statesman at the time). With another transit vote for Austin on the near horizon, it appears Skaggs may be using the same strategy. Even more deliciously, his donation effectively offset a BATPAC expenditure in the same period to Costello & Co. That would be Sal Costello, founder of, who brags on his blog that he helped kill hundreds of millions in Central Texas road tolls since 2004. The very same toll roads that Skaggs has pushed over rail transit, of course. No wonder BATPAC sings a decidedly off-key City Council race Kumbaya.

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election, Better Austin Today, BATPAC, Jim Skaggs, Sal Costello

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