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Thursday, July 16, 2015 by Jo Clifton

Adler, Tovo still have heavy debt to themselves

Mayor Steve Adler reported Wednesday that his campaign still owes him more than $418,315. Adler’s campaign finance report indicates that he paid himself back $31,077 in January. However, the campaign has no money remaining to repay the rest.

Other mayors in the same situation, such as former Mayor Lee Leffingwell, have relied on fundraising after they left office to recoup some of their expenses. Leffingwell reported Wednesday that he had repaid himself $56,000 this year, leaving a debt close to $35,000.

Campaign finance reports were due on Wednesday from all City Council members and all Council candidates who had not previously closed down their accounts, as well as anyone else still spending or collecting funds.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo reported that her campaign still owes her $161,807. Tovo is the lone incumbent on Council, having defeated former Council Member Chris Riley to win her District 9 seat.

Tovo reported paying well-known political consultant David Butts $10,000 for his services to her campaign, and Adler reported paying Butts $5,133.

Tovo also reported a $3,000 payment to Bobby Levinski for his consulting services on the same campaign. Levinski currently works in Tovo’s office, but his position is temporary.

According to his most recent campaign finance report, District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman raised $638.50, including $18.50 from himself as an in-kind contribution of paper, envelopes and ink.

Zimmerman is allowed to raise money for his legal defense fund since he has two ethics complaints pending.

Attorney Bill Aleshire filed a complaint with the Travis County attorney and the Texas Ethics Commission alleging that Zimmerman violated the Texas Election Code by paying his wife $2,000 for work in his campaign during last fall’s race.

Mark Walters filed a complaint in late June seeking a review before the city’s Ethics Commission because of remarks Zimmerman made comparing gay people to pedophiles. Walters says the statement “is a violation of the city of Austin personnel policy.”

To help with his legal defense, Zimmerman received $500 from Marc Chase, $50 from Alan Barr and $60 from Tom Gleinser of Dripping Springs.

Zimmerman also reported that his campaign still owes him $18,000.

The filing of the most recent report sparked a response from Aleshire to Stephen Casey, Zimmerman’s attorney. On Wednesday, Aleshire wrote to Casey via email: “I see from the attached July 15th COH, that Don Zimmerman paid you (his campaign treasurer and his attorney) $500 from campaign funds since January for ‘legal defense.’ That’s ironic, because if you’d given Mr. Zimmerman better legal advice or done your job as his campaign treasurer in the first place, there would have been no complaint filed against him. You were his campaign treasurer when he violated clear election law prohibitions against such an expenditure to oneself or family, and you were his campaign treasurer when he filed his January 2015 COH and failed to include the Bank Reconciliation and Campaign Reconciliation Reports required by City Code.”

Aleshire said the filing could result in another complaint against Zimmerman.

Neither Zimmerman nor Casey responded to phone calls requesting comment.

District 1 Council Member Ora Houston reported spending less than $900 over the past six months, mostly on office expenses. She reported that her campaign has no outstanding loans and maintains $9,186.09 from contributions she received in her campaign.

District 2 Council Member Delia Garza reported spending $1,968. She reported that $1,500.53 of that came from previous political contributions. She spent $467.50 on political expenditures from personal funds, according to the report.

Garza spent $370 for the Austin Language Justice Collective to provide translation services for a town hall event. She paid the Austin Independent School District $104 to use Perez Elementary School for that meeting.

Garza donated $300 to Child Inc. to help the Palomita Daycare recover from vandalism and spent $126.50 on pizza for volunteers working to clean up that facility. Additionally, Garza donated $250 to the nonprofit Con Mi Madre, which helps young Latinas and their mothers prepare for post-secondary education. She also contributed $150 to NARAL Pro Choice Texas and $200 to the Travis County Democratic Party.

Garza reported that she still has $2,270 in her campaign fund.

Like Garza, Council Member Pio Renteria reported giving money to charity and to other political organizations. The District 3 Council member also repaid a loan to himself of $1,300. Renteria gave money to University Democrats, Capital Area Progressive Democrats, Dr. Jayme Mathias, UT Project 2015 for home repair supplies and Ricardo Zavala for his son’s medical expenses.

According to the report, Renteria maintained $9,078 as of June 30.

District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool reported that her campaign still owes her $27,500, but she had only $215.50 in the campaign account at the end of June. According to the report, Pool repaid herself $13,000 in January.

District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair reported $13,307.97 in expenditures and about $2,768 remaining in her campaign account. The report states that she paid the Strategic Campaign Group of Annapolis, Maryland, $10,000 for advertising expenses. That money was paid in January, although the expense was incurred prior to that.

The city website did not show reports for Council Members Ann Kitchen or Sheri Gallo. If those reports came in right before 5 p.m., they would not have made the deadline for posting online.

The Stonewall Democrats reportedly collected $940 and spent $955 during the latest reporting period. The group received money from the Travis County Democratic Party and Sarah Goodfriend, who with Suzanne Bryant became the first same-sex couple to marry in Texas. The group spent most of its money on a gay pride event.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler is pictured.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

Campaign Finance: One of the tributaries to the Colorado River, starting in northwest Austin.

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