Dukes vs. Ludlow ... vs. Ethics

Dukes files CFR late, again; Ludlow seeks to make it a campaign issue

Dawnna Dukes
Dawnna Dukes (Photo by John Anderson)

It's not who, or how much – it's when. That's how Libertarian Kevin Ludlow has attacked Democratic incumbent Dawnna Dukes over her belated campaign finance reports in the House District 46 race.

In Texas, campaigns must submit a finance report to the Texas Ethics Commission 30 days before election day. In this cycle, that report covered the period from July 1 to Sept. 25, and was due on Oct. 6. Another report is due eight days before election day (in 2014, this covered contributions donated between Sept. 26 and Oct. 25, and was due Oct. 27). Ludlow's campaign was furious that Dukes filed her 30-day report late, most specifically that voters were lacking numbers for her Sept. 4 birthday fundraiser. With Dukes raising perhaps as much as $164,000 on the night, he argued, voters needed to know where that money was coming from.

Kevin Ludlow
Kevin Ludlow

Dukes' campaign finally submitted her 30-day report (due Oct. 6) on Oct. 22, followed five days later (on deadline) by her eight-day numbers. So what was in that belated submission? Well, for starters, Ludlow's figure of $164,000 in one night was woefully optimistic, as she only raised $41,720 across the entire three-month cycle. The donors themselves were the usual mixed bag of individuals, partisan PACs, and the kind of commercial lobby groups that always pick the winning team (though Democrats may blanch at the $1,000 she pocketed from Koch PAC).

By contrast, Ludlow's big donations over the last few months have come from three major sources: personal contributions from himself ($5,200), plus major donations from the Libertarian Booster PAC ($10,000) and local advertising firm Acme Partnership ($11,700). The Lib Booster PAC (co-founded by venerable Austin Libertarians Wes Bene­dict, now of D.C., and Arthur DiBianca) has since suspended operations, and in the final days, Ludlow's campaign is basically broke, with only $172 cash on hand – those big highway billboards cost real money.

However, even in the event of a likely walkover, the belated report is (at a minimum) awkward for the Dukes campaign. The incumbent has worked hard over the last few months at not engaging Ludlow publicly, including refusing to debate him, and the filing delay has given him a campaign hand-hold he'd otherwise lack. Moreover, this is the third time that Dukes (or more technically, her sister and treasurer Ateja Dukes) has received an ethics complaint for poor financial record-keeping. She was fined $2,800 in 2008, and $800 in 2010, amounts that in both instances were covered by the Dukes campaign. However, while the amount of the fine decreased, the length of the commission report went up from a cursory four pages in 2008 to an excoriating 11-pager in 2010, including a curt reminder to Dukes to file her 30-day report on time. What makes this even more uncomfortable for the incumbent is that she is a sitting member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Yet the TEC might not be too pleased with Ludlow either. Last year, the body adopted new rules against using ethics complaints – which are supposed to be anonymous and sealed – in campaign press material. Which is exactly what Ludlow did.

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Dawnna Dukes, Kevin Ludlow, November 2014 Election, State, Ateja Dukes, HD 46, Texas Ethics Commission, Texas Legislature

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