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Citizen Blizzard files complaint against Meeker campaign

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 by Austin Monitor

A former political consultant who has experience with state and local campaign finance laws has filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission against the former treasurer of the Jason Meeker Campaign and against the campaign itself for allegedly violating various sections of the Texas Election Code.

 

Mike Blizzard, president of Blizco Productions, filed a multi-pronged complaint today against Rick Culleton, the owner of Discount Electronics, for ads that ran in the Austin Chronicle on April 4 and April 11. Culleton placed political ads for Meeker atop his Discount Electronics ads in the Austin Chronicle.

 

According to the complaint, the first ad violates the prohibition against using corporate funds for political advertising.

 

In Fact Daily reported on April 5 that since the company is a corporation, Culleton’s April 4 ad appears to be illegal under Texas law. The Texas Election Code expressly prohibits corporations from making political contributions to candidates or making independent expenditures to aid in the election or defeat of a candidate.

 

At the time, Carol Flagg, advertising director for the Austin Chronicle, told In Fact Daily that Discount Electronics and Culleton delivered the ad to the weekly newspaper camera ready. “We bill Discount Electronics,” she said.

 

Although Culleton served as Meeker’s campaign treasurer until March 26, Meeker has told In Fact Daily that he did not know that Culleton was going to do the ad touting his candidacy. Both ads use the magic words that make them political speech.

 

The complaint also alleges a number of other violations of the law.

 

Blizzard, a supporter of incumbent Place 1 Council Member Lee Leffingwell, said the ads represent extreme disregard for campaign finance law.

 

He said, “I noted the first ad and was immediately aware it had violated numerous election laws but I didn’t do anything about it. But here comes the second ad and I thought if no one else was going to file a complaint about this activity, I would.

 

“And the worst thing about this second one is that someone, Culleton or someone from Meeker’s campaign, was able to alter the ad,” so that it says “paid for by Rick Culleton.” The change of the ad, “tells me they could have just deleted that political portion. In a lot of law, especially election law, there’s the term knowingly…clearly if you were aware enough to alter the ad and add a small, inadequate disclaimer then al the violations of that second ad were done knowingly,” Blizzard said.

 

The complaints against Meeker’s campaign include the allegation that the campaign coordinated with Culleton—who was the campaign treasurer until one day before the ad copy for the first ad had to be delivered to the Chronicle.

 

Meeker responded, “I’m taking on the City Hall insiders and lobbyists like Mike Blizzard who in the past worked for a law firm that represented Lincoln Properties in the Wal-Mart dispute. They are fighting back dirty with charges that do not hold up. They’re funding Leffingwell’s campaign, so I am not surprised that a lobbyist has made unfounded charges against me.”

 

Election day is May 10.

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