Thirty Days Away: What the C&Es Tell
Who's paying the big bucks to see their candidate win?
For the May 9 City Council election, 30-day-out contribution and expenditure reports are in, and with less than a month until election day, how candidates are spending their money is as illustrative as who's supplying it.
Of the mayoral candidates, Brewster McCracken has collected the most cash to date, but Lee Leffingwell leads with cash on hand, thanks to a $58,837 check he cut to himself, bringing his own loans to an even $100,000.
Among Leffingwell's notable contributors: $350 contributions (the individual limit) from fellow Council Member Mike Martinez and Pedernales Electric Cooperative general manager (and former assistant city manager) Juan Garza, $1,400 from employees of Stratus Properties, $1,950 from employees of engineering firm Black & Veatch, and $3,100 from six Lone Star Cab Co. (mistakenly called Blue Star Cab in the reports, it appears) employees and their spouses. Leffingwell's bundlers (who collect $200 or more for the campaign from at least five different people) include attorney David Armbrust; William Reagan II, president of Reagan National Advertising; Bradley Schlosser, of the Schlosser Development Corporation; and development attorney Richard Suttle.
McCracken raised a princely $214,039. Like Leffingwell's, his contributor list is heavy with attorneys and developers – the people with money to spend on campaigns. Endeavor Real Estate Group employees and their spouses donated $3,500, while several employees of law firms Baker Botts, Fulbright & Jaworski, Jackson Walker, and Winstead PC all kicked in. Dubya Bush strategist and Public Strategies Vice Chair Mark McKinnon gave the limit, as did film producer Elizabeth Avellán and the Alamo Drafthouse's Tim and Karrie League.
The money is needed all around, because the campaigns are spending at a brisk pace. Between the end of January and mid-March, McCracken spent $44,975 on "public relations" with I&O Communications (Colin Rowan, Mike Lavigne, et al.), which has spearheaded his campaign. McCracken has also spent about $2,000 a month each on two additional campaign positions, and twice that, $3,950, monthly on deputy campaign manager Mario Bravo – before the campaign laid him off in March. He laid out another $10,000 to Stanford Campaigns for opposition research and $4,000 for polling. Leffingwell paid individual salaries to staffers, including campaign manager J.D. Gins and old local campaign hands David Butts and Mark Nathan. All told, by a rough estimate, salaries for Leffingwell consume about $16,000 a month; the campaign also spent $8,000 on surveys and dropped $2,600 on production for TV spots.
McCracken's and Leffingwell's numbers eclipse those of Carole Keeton Strayhorn. Her Carole for Austin political action committee spent $52,478, of which $10,000 went to "accounting work" and $27,580 to the Bass Group – a political consulting firm with roots in the banking industry – for "campaign coordination services." Kevin Brown, her campaign manager, also received $500 for the same. Among her contributions are $150 from Birds Barbershop, $350 (not exactly big money) from the endorsing Building Owners and Managers Association, and $350 from Hang Town Grill owner William Boone.
Mayoral candidate David Buttross – a local and statewide real estate mogul – lent his own campaign $30,000, while novice campaigner Josiah Ingalls reported just more than $600 in contributions (including, oddly, $115 from Buttross to pay for Ingalls' campaign fliers).
The only other competitive race, Place 1, saw Chris Riley edging out Perla Cavazos in funds raised, $76,274 to $64,758. Riley enjoys a larger advantage in cash on hand, $48,305 to $24,312. Several employees of Endeavor Real Estate Group donated to Riley, as did Downtown boosters such as Andrew Clements, along with American Civil Liberties Union attorney Ann Del Llano and bicycling advocate Allen Demling. Cavazos' contributors were heavy on contacts from her past in state government, among them former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros. (Council Member Mike Martinez also donated $300 to Cavazos.) Cavazos lists two salaried campaign staffers, Amanda Boyd and Laurie Felker Jones, and has spent $2,400 on research with Intrepid Campaigns. Riley is paying salaries to a campaign manager, a field director, a fundraising consultant, and interns and spent $2,000 on TV ad production. Both campaigns paid Burnt Orange Report's Matt Glazer for Web communications.
As for the remaining uncontested (virtually, if not literally) races: Place 6 incumbent Sheryl Cole raised $116,394 and has more than $102,000 on hand, having paid $6,000 to her council policy director, Stephanie McDonald, for campaign consulting. Her opponent, Sam Osemene, has spent nearly all he has collected, $8,348 out of $9,845 (not bad for a long shot). In Place 2, incumbent Mike Martinez reported $92,828 raised, $28,179 spent, and $89,765 in the bank. He spent $5,000 paying himself back a previous campaign loan. Opponent Jose Quintero reported no funds raised and no campaign expenditures. Unopposed Place 5 candidate Bill Spelman has collected nearly $51,000. (For more finance report analysis, see "City Hall Hustle.")