Pool Campaign – Part Deux

Pool Campaign – Part Deux

This is Part Deux (Update Deux, whatever) of my article on the Leslie Pool Campaign and Austin’s Fair Campaign Chapter fund.  (also, be sure to read Part 3 in the series)

We return you now to that coverage, already in progress…

Ann Franklin is the Election Clerk for the City of Austin and she is out of the office all day today, meeting with the city council. I left a voicemail and will try again Monday morning. In the meantime, let’s briefly examine a couple of the requirements of the Austin Fair Campaign Chapter that I did not delve into in the original article. Of course, these requirements only apply to those campaigns that have elected to follow the rules of the chapter by signing a valid campaign contract..

One of the requirements of the Austin Fair Campaign Chapter is that candidates for city council must not spend more than $75,000 in the general election. The Pool campaign reported almost $15,000 in spending on their 30 day report and about $46,000 on their 8 day report. Pool did not file a July 15th report, because Pool entered the race after that reporting period was complete. Clearly, the campaign’s expenditures are well within the $75,000 limit.

Another requirement of the Chapter is a 5% limitation on the expenditure of personal funds (funds belonging to the candidate herself). I believe that the Pool campaign passes this test, but I’m not 100% certain, due to loans that Leslie Pool made to herself. Those loans, were they to be counted as “personal funds” for the purposes of the 5% limitation, would exceed the 5% limit.

In 2011, Kathie Tovo, in a very similar situation, had loans to herself that far exceeded the 5% limit and she still received the money from the Fair Campaign fund. However, there is a slight difference between the Schedule E (loan information) form that Leslie Pool filed and the Schedule E form that Kathie Tovo filed. On Pool’s Schedule E form there is a checkbox that doesn’t exist on Tovo’s Schedule E form. The checkbox is titled “Check if personal funds were deposited into political account.”  I am pretty certain that that checkbox will be meaningless for the purposes of determining Pool’s eligibility for the funds, but I cannot be a 100% certain, and the wording raises concerns. Screenshots:

tovoE

Tovo Schedule E

poolE

Pool Schedule E

Additionally, Austin’s Fair Campaign Chapter has a few limits on contributions from PACs and accepting too much money from out-of-city sources. The Pool campaign barely took any PAC money at all and does not have an excessive amount of out-of-city contributions. As a side note, out-of-city contributions are limited for all campaigns, not just for those following the Austin’s Fair Campaign Chapter rules, so when you see people trying to make it about candidates taking too much out-of-city money, you can ignore their cries – no campaign has exceeded the limits (and it would be a violation to do so).

If I were advising the Pool campaign, I would recommend that they get proactive – get on the phone and make sure that you are going to be awarded the money from the Fair Campaign Fund; make sure that the personal funds checkbox doesn’t cause an issue (hire Buck Wood or another attorney, if needed); ensure that the city doesn’t mistakenly give a third of the funds to Almanza and another third of it to Renteria too.

Time.  Marches on…

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

13 Comments

  1. Pool accepted several large donations of PAC money! In additon to the $40,500 loan she gave to her campaign.

    • From my quick assessment of Leslie Pool’s PAC contributions, she has received over $5400. I haven’t reviewed all the finance reports from PACs; however, it appears she has already exceeded the limit allowed by the City of Austin.

      Austinites for Equity alone contributed over $5000. If you add Sierra Club, AFSME, Stonewall and several others she is over my quick assessment.

      • Typo, which should read AFSCME, Austin. Point is, I didn’t even include them in my assessment and she is already over the limit. Ethics Complaint?

        • Really? How did I miss that. Let me see…

      • Ah, I think I see the issue. You are conflating “independent expenditures” by PACs with PAC donations.

        “Independent expenditures” won’t count as far as the PAC contribution limit goes on the Fair Campaign Chapter. Independent expenditures are spending by 3rd party groups — theoretically spent without coordinating with any political campaign.

        Independent expenditures are the things made famous by the Citizens United and SpeechNow decisions, which, among other things, removed the prohibition on independent expenditures by for profit & nonprofit corporations and unions that McCain-Feingold and portions of other laws had put in place.

        The Austinites for Equity money is an independent expenditure that would not fall under the Fair Campaign Chapter limits. The $50 from Stonewall is a contribution and it would fall under the limits (along with the $350 from AFSCME and $350 from the Democratic Party).

    • $10,000 is the key figure on the PAC expenditures. That could be $10,000 in support of Pool, it could also release her from the requirements of the Austin’s Fair Campaign Chapter if Boyt received $10,000 in PAC expenditures on his behalf.

      BTW, the key thing is timing. As I recall, Tovo was first released from the requirements of the Austin’s Fair Campaign Chapter when over $10,000 PAC money was spent on behalf of Shade, and then Tovo was allowed to loan herself over the limit, in that order.

      About the $22,000 loan to herself, Pool, that disqualifies her from the funds from the Austin’s Fair Campaign Fund.

      So, it looks like nobody should get funds from the Austin’s Fair Campaign Fund.

      BTW, there was a recent ethics complaint on a candidate who did not file the Austin’s Fair Campaign Contract in time, and the Ethics Review Commission did not disqualify that candidate. So, Susana and Pio might press that, but still they did not meet the legal deadline.

      Looks like nobody should get funds from the Austin’s Fair Campaign Fund.

      • “BTW, there was a recent ethics complaint on a candidate who did not file the Austin’s Fair Campaign Contract in time, and the Ethics Review Commission did not disqualify that candidate. So, Susana and Pio might press that, but still they did not meet the legal deadline.”

        Almanza, Renteria, and many other candidates met the deadline – even the one initially referenced in your comment, which I’m guessing is me. Look up the ERC documents, the complaint was dismissed due to lack of reasonable grounds.

        Also learn to share correct information, information based on FACTS. Facts such as …
        1-The Fair Campaign Contract is VOLUNTARY.
        2-Candidates were LEGALLY able to sign said contract up to/including August 18. Staff at City Clerk’s office made them available for signature when candidates submitted ballot application.
        Info on signed Fair Campaign Contracts can be found at:
        http://austintexas.gov/cityclerk/elections/ballotapplications2014.html

        As for loans Pool, or any other candidate, made to self .. Loans are not mentioned in the Fair Campaign Contract, nor are they in the City Code, Sec 2-2-12, 2-2-13. Restrictions are about limitations on contributions and expenditures, not loans.

      • I tried to reply to ATXSleuth & Monica in the comment section, but it came out crappy, mean, and confusing. So, instead, I’ll just make a “Part 3” post.

        summarized version until I get around to writing part 3:
        Pool will get the funds, I’m almost certain. She didn’t really need to follow the restrictions of the Fair Campaign Chapter, even though she signed a contract, because she had an opponent that didn’t sign a Fair Campaign contract. That is all Pool needed to have happen in order to not be constrained by the restrictions of the Chapter and yet still be eligible for the funds – exactly the same as Tovo [and it’s told that way in most of the Tovo/Shade runoff articles at the time]. I actually mentioned that logic in a paragraph in Part 1 when I was talking about the confusing wording of the Fair Campaign Chapter, but I did not explain it in great detail.

        Really, I wanted to make the case that Pool did actually follow the Fair Campaign restrictions [though technically she didn’t need to] and get her the props she deserved. Plus, I thought it added drama and made for a more interesting story to go through the provisions & her campaign’s performance. Instead, however, I think that it really just made things confusing for everyone and was a bad idea.

        Also, turns out I was actually mistaken when I said her campaign did follow all the Fair Campaign restrictions – I did not realize that loans to yourself apparently count as contributions. Oops.

        So, yeah, I was mistaken that she followed all the restrictions – but, as I’m sure she knew the entire time, she never had to follow Fair Campaign restrictions at all to get the funds – same as Tovo. Anyway, will explain in detail in part 3.

  2. What’s the point of your article? That you are a Leslie Pool fan and wanted to make her look good? Then to find out she manipulated the system like all the other political cronies in Austin have for the last 25 years?

    Are you working for Pool’s campaign or you just dislike Boyt? I’m not trying to be caddy, just curious.

    • Neither. I’m just writing about campaign issues – particularly campaign finance issues – that I think people might be interested in knowing more about. Judging by the confusion for the last 20 years over how Austin’s Fair Campaign Finance Ordinance works, it seemed like a really good topic. I mean, you’ve got something that pops up every 3 years and suddenly flushes a single candidate with something like $50,000 or $80,000 in cash that no one expected — kind of a big deal to the other candidates — or at least it should be.

      If you’re not interested in it, feel free to ignore it – I was told to write about something I’m interested in (that’s not high-tech), in order to practice not writing everything like a tech manual, which is what I tend to do currently (obviously I have not mastered the “be concise” idiom). I’m supposed to be writing “stories”, not just listing a few facts – I have to at least attempt to make it interesting. So, that is what I am attempting to do. Hopefully some people find it useful or interesting. Fortunately, Austin has so much of its finance data, geo data, and election data online I am able to cheat a little bit and both write stories about something “non-tech”, yet still do some programming and such, in support of the story, of course. 😉

      As to Pool, I barely even know who she is. Wouldn’t recognize her on the street, nor do I know anything about Boyt. I don’t live in that district (though I am close). I haven’t worked for a political campaign since Lee Cooke for Mayor in the late 90s. I’m a Democrat, but I’m not a hardcore Leftist – that’s about the extent of it though. I couldn’t care less if Pool or Boyt wins, neither are Tea Party, which is great.

      I was only congratulating Pool and was impressed with her efforts because I thought that she was following the requirements of the Chapter, even though she didn’t need to. But, just because she didn’t follow them, doesn’t mean she “manipulated the system like all other political cronies in Austin have for the last 25 years”. On the contrary, she didn’t manipulate it, she apparently actually read it and understood it (or her campaign manager or consultant did). Which is more than I can say for most of the candidates that signed a Fair Campaign contract this go round.

      I get that it’s easy to be pretty cynical about politicians, particularly at the federal level, but most of the local folks – whether conservative or liberal – are usually really working for what they think are the best interests of Austin. People may disagree with some of the approaches, but at least from my experience a couple of decades ago, Austin was governed by a pretty good group of people – and not all of them on the city council – there were city luminaries, environmentalists, UT officials, council members, chamber leaders, developers – often all working together (sure there were disagreements).

      This city has its problems, of course, but you don’t get at or near the top of damn near every “Best of” list, consistently year after year, for most of the last 3 decades by being run by a bunch of corrupt political cronies — or, if you do, then we’d be the first city I know of that did that.

      For the few years that I was part of it, I saw nothing but a lot of committed people working their butts off to help the city – and a lot of them did it as volunteers, either in time, money, or both.

      I’ve been online since back in the bulletin-board days and I know that the online environment, particularly when anonymous, tends to bring out heated comments, over-the-top arguments, and “interesting” viewpoints. Some of it, maybe a lot it, is stuff people wouldn’t even think, much less say when dealing with real people face to face — you need look no further than the comment section of the Chronicle to verify that.

      So, I’m sure I’m swimming against the stream of online vitriol when I make the above statements, and, again, I’m not saying there aren’t problems, but come on folks, take a chill pill, it ain’t that bad. Or, if it is that bad, consider moving away to Houston or wherever & leave Austin to those of us that made it what it is today & let us work on the problems it does have with a slightly lower volume level on the constant drone of negativity from so many of the online set.

      Dylan

  3. I appreciate your answer. I live in District 7 and I’m concerned that the voters in my district elected two of the same. They are both backed by the political machine that actually makes all the decisions in Austin for the last 25 years.

    District 7 isn’t unique; there are several candidates that were backed by the same political machine in every district. Most made the runoff, some won outright.

    The 10-1 system was to change the political dynamic and make it more representative of Austenites. However, the Machiavellian “Austin Formula” (how to win an election in A-Town) still reigns supreme. Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

    The only district that the Austin Political Machine token candidate lost was District 7 (Matt Stillwell), 10 out of 11 are good odds for the Austin Formula to continue. It’s embarrassing how the clueless voters are manipulated during every election year.

  4. Sorry, I wrote the wrong district for Matt Stillwell, it was District 6.

  5. The Statesman published an article a few hours ago that says that the fund contains $83,366 and that the Clerk has notified Pool, Almanza, and Renteria that they will all 3 split the money.

    http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local/leslie-pool-susana-almanza-and-sabino-renteria-to-/nh7dW/

    While the Clerk said, again, that she does not interpret the law, someone there does, and in my judgement they have made a mistake, but, I am open to hearing their reasoning. The statesman article is pretty lengthy, so it looks like they did their homework. Fred Lewis, local Austin attorney, is quoted in the article and is said to be advising the Pool campaign on this.

    Fred is certainly an expert, so I must be misinterpreting the law I guess. Maybe I can call him and get him to explain how… Looks like Guzman will likely at least get the satisfaction of being correct on this particular item.

    I don’t see any way that I, personally, can challenge the city’s interpretation. An ethics complaint wouldn’t apply (based on my reading), and I wouldn’t have standing in court to challenge it – that could only be done by the other candidates.

    I sure would like to hear the Pool campaign’s/Fred Lewis’s reasoning on this…

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