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Martinez, Leffingwell issue call for campaign law clean up

Monday, August 25, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Council Members Lee Leffingwell and Mike Martinez joined colleague Brewster McCracken on Friday in calling for an immediate clean up of the city’s campaign finance laws.


In Fact Daily reported on Friday that McCracken wanted to add provisions to city ordinances to make limits on campaign contributions and expenditures enforceable.


City Attorney David Smith has authored an opinion stating that such limits are currently unenforceable.


In addition, Smith’s opinion states that there are currently no restrictions on a City Council candidate’s use of funds raised for a previous, non-Council race, raising the question of whether Carole Keeton Strayhorn could use more than $100,000 in her special purpose political action committee (S PAC) fund to run for Mayor.


Leffingwell noted that the proposal he and Martinez have put on this Thursday’s Council agenda would be “a very broad package which is aimed at cleaning up,” the city’s current laws. He said they had been working on the effort for several weeks. Martinez and Leffingwell were not working with McCracken although they seemed to have arrived at the same conclusion—it is time to add teeth to the law.


Leffingwell said the new provisions would not only provide for enforcement by the city attorney by making violations a Class C misdemeanor but would also allow the city’s lawyers to seek injunctive relief when they have reason to believe the law has been violated.


The posting language on this week’s agenda includes “adding a new City Code Section 2-2-34 relating to restrictions on contributions to and expenditures by certain political committees. It also adds a new City Code Section 2-2-35 relating to restrictions on contributions and transfers from political committees, candidates and office holders, and “adding a new City Code Section 2-2-36 relating to the creation of candidate guide.”


Leffingwell said some of the ordinance changes would be “specifically aimed at S PACs” in addition to enforcing the existing provisions in the law. “I, for one, was kind of shocked to learn that there is no enforcement capability of our campaign finance laws. So when violations occur there is basically nothing that can be done about it. So what these will do is put teeth in our laws.”


Republican political consultant Chuck McDonald told Fox 7 News on Friday that Strayhorn’s interest in running for Mayor was widely known. He said it was “typical of our city elected officials to try to throw up a roadblock any time anyone wants to challenge their little internal fiefdom.”


Leffingwell, McCracken and Strayhorn are widely expectred to run for Mayor. Other possible candidates include former Council Members Jackie Goodman and Bill Spelman.

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