Austin City Council Candidate Katrina Daniel Bankrolled by Lobbyists

Austin City Council Candidate Katrina Daniel Bankrolled by Lobbyists

UPDATE — I recently discovered that a lot of people reading the original Katrina Daniel article somehow missed clicking on the link that takes you to the page that lists all of the detail of the lobbyist-connected contributions: lobbyist names, contribution amounts, dates, employer, job title, the lobbyist ID#, and a link to the lobbyist’s profile on the Tribune site.  Note that you can click the lobbyist ID# and you will get detailed data for that lobbyist, including all his clients (the corporations that hired him), and the value of each contract, for the last 5 years. I’ll put the link to that page next, just above the article content, so that everyone see it from now on:

http://www.electionaustin.com/txethics/kdaniel.html < click link

 

On paper, Katrina Daniel appears to be a qualified candidate, running a competitive, no-nonsense campaign for Austin City Council, District 4. Daniel’s campaign finance paperwork, however, reveals a campaign that has raised most of its contributions from lobbyists – a fact likely to raise ethical concerns from Austin voters who have been living with more restrictive rules on lobbyist campaign contributions and bundling since changes enacted by the City Council in 2012.

The Contributions

Approximately 53% of contributions ($16,875 of $31,480) to the Katrina Daniel campaign are from current or recent lobbyists registered with the Texas Ethics Commission, or from immediate family members of registered lobbyists.

Because many of the lobbyists contributing to the Daniel campaign are state-registered, rather than city-registered, they may contribute up to the $350 individual limit and are not subject to Austin’s $25 contribution limit for lobbyists.

The lobbyist connections are detailed in an analysis of Daniel’s contributions, clients, and contracts.

The analysis is based on her corrected 7/23/2014 campaign finance report.

The Lobbyists

Included among Daniel’s approximately 70 lobbyist contributors are some of the top names in Texas lobbying, according to Capitol Inside’s “2013 Texas Lobby Power Rankings”: Jamie Capelo, Craig Chick, Deirdre Delisi, Lara Keel, Richard McBride, Nancy Fisher, Randall Erben, Marsha Jones, Neal “Buddy” Jones, Jay Propes, Eddie Solis, Bill Pewitt, Gil Turrieta, Patrick Haggerty, Mark Vane, Thomas Suehs, Kathy Hutto, Louis Bacarisse, Chris Britton, and Jay Howard, as well as the lobbyist spouses of Jenny Aghamalian and Martha McCartt.

Lobbyists making the “Power Rankings” lists typically represent thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars in lobbying contracts from special interests. Many have extensive connections to powerful interests and officials in Texas. For example, Thomas Suehs served as Executive Commissioner at Health and Human Services; Patrick Haggerty is a former Republican State Representative; Deirdre Delisi served as Governor Rick Perry’s campaign manager and her husband, Ted Delisi, who purchased Karl Rove’s fundraising and consulting operation, is a top Republican strategist and campaign consultant.

It is unusual for so many high-powered Texas lobbyists to contribute to Austin council and mayoral campaigns. That group of top-tier lobbyists totaled 22 contributions to Daniel’s campaign, yet they total only 40 contributions to all other Austin council and mayoral campaigns, combined, over the past 6 years (2009-2014).

The Candidate

Katrina Daniel currently serves as the Sr. Associate Commissioner for the Life, Health, and Licensing division of the Texas Department of Insurance. Daniel is responsible for performing regulatory oversight of life, annuity, and health insurance products. Other responsibilities include licensing insurance agents, development and oversight of workers compensation health networks, and implementation and monitoring of state and federal regulations related to life insurance, health coverage, and insurance agents.

Daniel also currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Board of Managers for Central Health. Central Health, also known as the Travis County Healthcare District, has a budget of approximately $170 million to spend on healthcare delivery and related services in Travis County. Central Health is governed by its Board of Managers, which meets regularly to address issues related to personnel, operations, disposition of real property, expenditures, vendor contracts, healthcare delivery, and budgetary planning, among others.

The Conflicts

Lobbyists contributing to the Daniel campaign reported lobbying contracts worth approximately $11 million to $25 million a year, in total. Many of those contracts are with organizations in the health, insurance, and medical industries. Some of those organizations fall within Daniel’s regulatory oversight responsibilities as an Associate Commissioner in the Life, Health, and Licensing division at the Texas Dept. of Insurance (TDI).

To put it another way, part of Daniel’s job at TDI is to make sure products from companies such as United Health Group, Superior Healthplan, and Blue Cross Blue Shield follow regulatory rules. Those same companies have hired lobbyists that have contributed money to Daniel’s campaign – an obvious conflict of interest.

As Vice Chair of Central Health’s Board of Managers, Daniel has significant input on how Central Health spends money and with whom it does business. Because so many of the lobbyists contributing to Daniel’s campaign are in health, medical, insurance, and related industries, conflicts of interest seem inevitable. One of those lobbyists, Marsha Jones, who contributed $350 to Daniel’s campaign, even has a lobbying contract with Central Health itself, creating a very direct conflict of interest between Daniel, Central Health, and Jones.

10-1 and Me

One of the great things about Austin’s new 10-1 council format is that it gives representation to areas of Austin ignored in years past. It also opens up opportunities for new ideas and candidates and makes the campaign season more interesting.

Since I live in an Austin extraterritorial jurisdiction, I cannot vote in the election, but I can write about the candidates. There are plenty of interesting candidates out there, such as conservative no-tax types like Jay Wiley in District 6. Wiley, who still thinks that the City funds the bike-sharing program, believes he can solve Austin’s traffic issues by building roads, lots of them, and pay for them without raising taxes, simply by getting rid of “wasteful spending.” Despite a lack of any detailed plan to accomplish this, he seems confident. It would be an amazing feat, perhaps even superhuman.

Katrina Daniel was not on my list of candidates to write about; she seemed too normal. Writing programs to parse campaign finance data and pull lobbyist reports from the Ethics Commission website never crossed my mind. If not for the large number of contributors with a job title of “Government Affairs Consultant,” Daniel’s campaign finance report would have received only a cursory scroll-through as I compared Wiley’s report to it.

Conclusion

Thanks to weak Texas campaign ethics laws, the Daniel campaign’s actions, including the apparent conflicts of interest, appear to be legal. Campaign contributions are exempt from state conflict of interest laws.

Regardless, the influence of lobbyists, particularly those connected to the medical and insurance industries, raises serious concerns. Daniel’s decision to retain her positions with TDI and Central Health, despite the lobbyist contributions to her campaign and apparent conflicts of interest, magnifies those concerns. The unusual interest from high-powered state lobbyists, who would ostensibly have no business before the Austin City Council, adds suspicion.

Ultimately, it is not my opinion that matters; in November, Austin voters will decide if Daniel’s campaign is viable or if undue lobbyist influence has compromised it.

Dylan Tynan

Consultant, software developer, political wonk, etc.

Many years ago I worked for the Lee Cooke for Mayor campaign, but since then I have not worked for, nor given any money to, any political campaign.

Austin TX

20 Comments

  1. GOOD JOB ON THIS, DYLAN!

  2. Katrina, you dirty little girl.

  3. I noticed lots of lobbyist contributions in Katrina’s filings but hadn’t the time to analyze them. Thanks for this information. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why she chose not to do the ChangeAustin.org questionnaire.

    We sparked and helped lead the 10-1 campaign. Now 10-1 belongs to Austin, but we must use it or lose it!

    Thanks for writing about this.

  4. How odd that THIS IS THE ONLY ARTICLE ON THIS ENTIRE SITE !!!

    • Since I’ve only completed one article – so far – it’s not that unusual that there would only be one article on the site. I deleted the test post that comes with WordPress. So, that’s why there’s just one. I’m normally a software developer, not a content producer, so I had to spend time reading up on how best to do a blog, etc. But, that said, I am working on more stuff…

    • hey there’s two articles on my blog now!

    • Now there’s 4 posts. The posts are coming from inside the house!

  5. This is an interesting article but it starts with a flawed statement: that Austin voters in 2012 passed additional rules limiting the ability of lobbyists to influence municipal elections through campaign contributions.

    The limitation was not on the ballot in November 2012. For what was on the ballot see http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/election/byrecord.cfm?eid=196. The limitation came about as a result of me providing to the 2012 Charter Revision Committee two paragraphs from the City Code. One stated that registered city lobbyists could contribute no more than $25 to a candidate. The other stated that bundling had to be reported–but placed no limitation on how much money a lobbyist could bundle.

    The Charter Revision Committee researched, then voted on and recommended to the City Council a change to the City Code to limit the amount a lobbyist can bundle and improve reporting of bundled contributions.

    • thank you so much for the correction — fixed!

    • BTW, Ken, Greg Casar contributed well over $25 to his own campaign before he cancelled his Registration with the City as a Lobbyist on May 1st of this year, and anyway for the whole campaign period, May 8th – Nov. 4th he should have been limited to only $25 to his own campaign. Have a spreadsheet on it. Would post her if Joe had a way to post spreadsheets or pdfs. Also see this: http://www.austintexas.gov/edims/document.cfm?id=213316 Would you have time for it even if somebody weren’t paying?

      § 2-2-53 – RESTRICTIONS ON CONTRIBUTIONS BY LOBBYISTS.
      (A) The city council finds that the practice of lobbying for compensation creates a unique relationship between candidates and officeholders on the one hand, and lobbyists on the other. To preserve public confidence in the electoral process, to diminish the appearance of impropriety and special influence, and to minimize the role of political contributions in the legislative and regulatory processes and the awarding of public contracts, it is appropriate to prohibit persons who lobby the city council from making contributions to candidates for mayor and city council and to officeholders. Accordingly, no person who is compensated to lobby the city council and who is required to register with the City as a lobbyist, and no spouse of the person, may contribute more than $25 in a campaign period to an officeholder or candidate for mayor or city council, or to a specific purpose political committee involved in an election for mayor or city council.
      (B) A lobbyist may contribute to the Austin Fair Campaign Fund created under this chapter.
      Source: Ord. 20080925-079.

      • Why would I have a way for readers to post files? Does any blog do that?

        • Oh, yeah, sure Joe, there are plenty of comment apps that allow the attachment of files.

    • LOL, ATXSLEUTH be tripping.

      Why so paranoid, ATXSLEUTH?

  6. This would come across as less of a hit piece if you analyzed the other contributions to her opponents so there was something to compare this to. Greg Casar has gotten most of his contributions from unions and developers, so using your logic he’ll be beholden to them. Compared to health care institutions, I guess I’d rather a council person be in their pocket and not developers and unions.

    • By all means, publish that. I don’t know how to figure out who is a developer and who isn’t, so it would be difficult for me to do — but if you can do it, please publish it. I’m asking for help – I can’t even do the requests I’ve already received from people. I am working on a program that will make all this much easier for everyone though (at least I hope so).

      • The city needs to get all 2014 and put election data online, specifically campaign finance data.

        Paper, is so 2013.

  7. This is just some additional info that wasn’t included in my original article (bits of it are more recent than the article, but the gist of it was known by me back when I first wrote about Daniel’s lobbyist-tied funding):

    Craig Chick, one of the lobbyists contributing to the Daniel campaign, is married (or possibly was married, I’m not quite sure on that), to Kate Doner a somewhat well-known Republican fundraiser/philanthropist-type.

    Doner was, and may still be, associated with the State Policy Network (SPN). SPN is a group of a conservative and/or libertarian “think” tanks, funded in part by the Koch brothers via intermediary groups, and with at least one “think” tank in every state. In Austin, the SPN affiliate is the Texas Public Policy Foundation, or TPPF. TPPF advocates for hard-right and Tea Party type positions on issues. For example, during one of the debt ceiling fiascos, one of their people wrote an editorial, published by the Statesman, that advocated for the United States to default on its debt as the best possible course for the country. I’m not sure I need to say it, but that is beyond stupid.

    Doner was also associated with James O’Keefe, the conservative gadfly, activist-in-training and employer of questionable video-editing tactics. O’Keefe is often in the news pulling one stunt or another, typically with the use of hidden video cameras and an agenda attempting to prove widespread liberal malfeasance and corruption. You probably remember him from the ACORN video where he appears as a 12-year old pretending to be a pimp.

    O’Keefe recently claimed credit for exposing “Government Death Cabins” at “FEMA Ebola Camps” (http://nationalreport.net/fema-ebola-camps-james-okeefe-exposes-govt-death-cabins/).

    Within the last few days, O’Keefe showed up with video purporting to show election workers in Democratic districts in North Carolina not following proper procedures for handing out ballots, checking IDs, etc. – which he believes to be one tentacle of a vast left-wing voter fraud conspiracy. Apparently, in order to get said video, O’Keefe pretended to be other people – other registered voters from an “inactive voter list” – in an attempt to show how easy it would be to commit in-person voter fraud (and apparently to also prove the logical fallacy that it must therefore be commonplace). O’Keefe was arrested on conspiracy to commit voter fraud charges by North Carolina authorities.

    Doner and O’Keefe once worked closely together on the forming of Project Veritas. Project Veritas is a “watchdog” group focusing on voter fraud. Doner was involved in the early days when Veritas was trying to get its ducks in a row between its lobbying efforts, its political contributions and funding, and its (eventually successful) attempts to attain nonprofit status with the IRS.

    I didn’t include the Chick/Doner – O’Keefe bits, that were known at the time, in my article, because I thought it would be too pejorative to the average Austin democrat. At least of the dems I know, O’Keefe is associated with the highly partisan “dirty tricks” type groups on the Right – mildly reviled as an underhanded video-editing instigator, and also somewhat pitied as a sad pile of poopy-poop.

    It is worth noting that Kate Doner contributed to Daniel’s campaign, and to Daniel’s credit, her campaign returned the contribution. I assume they returned it due to the fact that Chick is registered as both a state and city lobbyist and is therefore subject to Austin’s lobbyist contribution limit of $25, which includes contributions from spouses.

    Finally, I had two people contact me who were acquaintances of Katrina Daniel and both thought that she had done a pretty good job. Both also questioned the idea that she would be influenced by lobbyists. I will let that stand on its own for now, but will probably address it in an article sometime soon.

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