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Meeker attacks Blizzard follwing campaign complaint

Thursday, April 17, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Following the filing of a complaint against him and his former campaign treasurer Wednesday, Place 1 candidate Jason Meeker went on the offensive against both the person who filed the complaint—former political consultant Mike Blizzard—and against his opponent incumbent Council Member Lee Leffingwell.


Blizzard, president of Blizco Productions, filed a multi-pronged complaint yesterday 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.


On Wednesday, Blizzard filed a formal complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission, saying that Culleton, who was treasurer of the Meeker Campaign until March 26, and his corporation, Discount Electronics, violated the Texas Election Code on several different counts.


Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, told In Fact Daily he is familiar with the original Chronicle ad. Since it lacks the words, “paid for by,” McDonald said, “in my mind, it’s a clear violation of the disclaimer requirement. On its face it’s a pretty clear violation.”


McDonald noted the ad appears to have been paid for with corporate funds, a felony. “I don’t know how the Ethics Commission would figure out how much was a political ad and how much was an ad for a Council (campaign). So if part of the ad was paid for by corporate check, and part not, does it taint the whole ad? I guess the Texas Ethics Commission will have to figure it out. We won’t know until after election.”


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


During the early days of that dispute, attorney Steve Drenner represented Lincoln. Blizzard worked with Stratus Properties against the Wal-Mart that was proposed on property near Circle C subdivision. Blizzard noted Wednesday that he also worked against Lincoln Properties when the company was developing the shops at Galleria. He told In Fact Daily he has never worked for the Drenner law firm, although he has worked with Drenner on some cases. He is no longer registered as a lobbyist for the City of Austin


Additionally, Blizzard gave advice to RG4N, the group that unsuccessfully sued the city over its approval of a plan to redevelop Northcross Mall with a Wal-Mart. Meeker says Leffingwell shows “political tone deafness” in failing to return campaign contributions made to him by members of the firm representing Lincoln at that trial, especially since the contributions were made during the trial. A number of attorneys with Armbrust and Brown, including the one representing Lincoln, contributed to the Leffingwell campaign.

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