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Keep Austin’s Word well-financed in anti-Prop 2 race

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The final campaign-finance reports heading into the Nov. 4 election show the Keep Austin’s Word PAC with a substantial fund-raising edge over the Stop Domain Subsidies group supporting Proposition 2. However, both groups are reliant upon a handful of contributors to make up the bulk of their accounts.


For Stop Domain Subsidies, that contributor is group founder Brian Rodgers. While the group’s campaign finance reports show several individuals and businesses donating between $10 and $500, Rodgers has personally given more than $41,000. Most of that came in a single donation last week of more than $26,000. The group so far has spent $18,000 on TV ads with Time Warner Cable and $3,000 on advertising with KXAN. Stop Domain Subsidies shows just over $13,000 on-hand for the final week of the campaign.


The 8-day report for Keep Austin’s Word, which is opposing Proposition 2, shows just over $77,000 on-hand. The group reports spending $260,000 so far on its campaign. That includes $27,000 on radio advertising, $77,000 on broadcast TV ads, $25,000 for advertising on Time Warner Cable, and $80,000 on signs, mailers, and graphics.


The major contributors to Keep Austin’s Word are The Domain shopping center (owned by Simon Properties), which gave $75,000; the Domain’s original owner, Endeavor Real Estate Group, which gave $50,000, and Prologis Management Inc., which gave $25,000. Prologis is the parent company of Catellus, which is handling the re-development of the former Robert Mueller Airport site. Members of the Keep Austin’s Word campaign have said that Proposition 2, while designed to prevent the city from making payments to The Domain, would also affect the city’s funding mechanism for redevelopment at the Mueller site. ABC Pest and Lawn, owned by Keep Austin’s Word treasurer Bobby Jenkins, contributed $18,000.


Austin’s major business groups have also contributed heavily to Keep Austin’s Word. The 8-day campaign finance report shows a $12,500 contribution from the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin. The previous report, filed 30 days before the election, shows a contribution of $18,750 from the Real Estate Council of Austin and that RECA pledged another $56,250 for a total of $75,000. That same report shows a $25,000 contribution from the Greater Austin Economic Development Corporation, which oversees the Opportunity Austin job-creation campaign organized by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. The Greater Austin EDC made a $75,000 pledge to the campaign. That pledge was originally reported as coming from the Chamber of Commerce, but the PAC filed an amended report showing the pledge as coming from the EDC.


Lynda Rife, campaign manager for Keep Austin’s Word, said the Chamber and the EDC were both originally on the pledge statement. “It was my fault,” the campaign reported money would come from the Chamber of Commerce, she told In Fact Daily.


The EDC does receive money from the City of Austin. The web site for Opportunity Austin lists several $350,000 contributions from the City for the past few years. However, the EDC is not a government entity. While some communities have Economic Development Corporations that receive funding from a one-half-cent sales tax, Austin’s does not. Voluntary contributions come from private businesses to support the group’s mission of creating new jobs. The City’s payments to the EDC, according to officials with the Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office, are for specific services rendered. Those include marketing the city on a national level, long-term workforce development activities, and promoting the development of clean-energy technology. “The amounts paid to Opportunity Austin are on a reimbursement basis for direct expenses for these three purposes,” EGRSO Acting Director Rodney Gonzales told In Fact Daily.


Officials with Keep Austin’s Word said they are upbeat going into the final week before the election. Taking into account contributions in both the 30-day and 8-day reports, the PAC has collected more than $350,000 to defeat the Stop Domain Subsidies charter amendment. Rife said she feels good about the group’s ability to convince voters not to vote for the amendment, since all the newspapers that do endorsements in Austin—the Statesman, the Austin Chronicle, the Daily Texan, La Prensa, The Villager, and even the have come out against Proposition 2.

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