The Austin Chronicle

On the Campaign Trail: Shade Racks Up Most Cash

By Wells Dunbar, May 13, 2011, News

There's big fundraising and spending in the home stretch headed toward City Council election day, with Place 3 incumbent Randi Shade's eight-day-out fundraising report showing she raised more than $65,000 in the last month, bringing her fundraising total within spitting distance of a quarter-million dollars – $234,000. Prominent donors included civil rights activist Bertha Means; Mayor Lee Leffingwell's wife, Julie Byers; and judicial candidate Kurt Kuhn. The filing shows $234,000 raised, more than $94,000 spent, and nearly $74,000 left on hand. The single largest expenses are $25,000 in ad buys coordinated through the Davis Group. Shade used the occasion to fire some shots at opponent Kathie Tovo, saying, "I can't give my campaign $53,000 as my opponent has done, so I depend on this generosity from friends and supporters."

For her part, Tovo raised just north of $38,000 since April 5, with expenditures exceeding $95,000 and about $25,500 in reserves; she indeed bolstered her campaign with a $13,000 loan on top of the $40,000 she previously loaned herself. Environmentalist Mary Arnold, neighborhood activist Jeff Jack, and Chronicle Publisher Nick Barbaro are among her high-profile contributors. About $30,000 in advertising expenses to Rindy and Associates make up a major portion of her expenses.

Rounding out the Place 3 race, Max Nofziger raised $2,850 and still has just under $1,000 on hand. Kris Bailey shows fundraising of $1,250, with $1,300 on hand.

In Place 1, incumbent Chris Riley continues his fundraising domination, collecting more than $27,000 this period and holding on to nearly $47,500. By comparison, Roger Chan has raised $4,010, and Josiah Ingalls has raised nothing; at press time, Norman Jacob­son had not submitted a report.

And in Place 4, Laura Morrison raised $21,400 over the last month, with reserves of more than $54,000 heading into election day. Opponent K. Toby Ryan Hill raised $2,600 in the period and has $2,500 in the bank; Eric Rangel reports $1,200 raised with nearly $300 going forward.

Place 3 Scuttlebutt

In other Place 3 news, the Shade campaign has gone after Tovo on a variety of fronts, while Tovo's campaign has sought to distance itself from the separate attacks on the incumbent. Shade's campaign has highlighted Tovo's signing of the local "Fair Campaign Pledge" that limits spending from self-loans. Since none of her opponents signed the pledge, Tovo's not held to the limits and will receive city funds (from fees paid by lobbyists and candidates) should the Place 3 contest head to a run-off – "almost $60,000 in public money," Shade's campaign wrote in a fundraising email. Candidates have taken the pledge and received run-off money before, even without having to limit their spending; Morrison received city dollars in her 2008 run-off without having to abide by the pledge since none of her opponents signed it. In contrast, critics have pointed out that, as the last major candidate to declare, Tovo could be reasonably sure going in that no other candidates would sign the pledge.

Kathie Tovo replied via email: "It's not a 'loophole,' it's the law. Randi Shade entered the Place 3 race first and I entered last – but we both had the same choice of whether to sign the Austin Fair Campaign Contract. I believe in campaign finance reform and feel strongly that the public would be better served if less money were involved in political campaigns. I wish every candidate in Place 3 had agreed to limit their spending. But they did not. I am following the law – and everyone in the race presumably knew how the Fair Campaign Act worked, and they all made the choice not to comply." She counters that Shade's war chest, containing contributions from bundlers like development attorney David Armbrust, "should be the real issue here."

Tovo sounded off on another campaign controversy, this time to distance herself from some anti-Shade material. Her Face­book page bears a message that reads, "my campaign has no connection with the individuals responsible" for a video lampooning Shade at a recent Libertarian forum, mashing the video up with the disclaimer-free "Shady the Clown" signs that have been popping up outside polling places lately.

At the forum, asked if she would like a camera installed in her office, Shade said, "I think it would be a pathetic waste of resources because that's not where the crimes are happening"; the video then states "everybody knows" crimes are happening inside City Hall, and references a 2009 email from Shade aide Glen Coleman discussing how to disable the history on an instant messaging program.

The video links to the YouTube account "AustinGadflies," which is the alias Texans for Account­able Government Executive Director John Bush used to solicit funds to print the posters. And it may bring Bush legal troubles of his own. The individual who shot the original footage of Shade, David Griffin, commented on the clip and demanded it be taken down: "If this is not removed immediately, a lawsuit will follow," Griffin warns. An email response from Bush to Griffin, posted on In Fact Daily, reads quizzically: "Surely there are better ways to deal with a situation than threatening state violence."

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