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Casar finance report shows new supporters

Thursday, July 16, 2015 by Jo Clifton

District 4 City Council Member Greg Casar, who is locked in a legal battle with his former opponent, Laura Pressley, raised $35,785 to help pay legal expenses between Jan. 1 and June 30. Casar’s report, filed Wednesday, shows a wide range of support, even from people and organizations who did not contribute to his campaign last fall.

The money raised for legal defense purposes is kept in a separate account from any money raised for campaign purposes and can be used only for legal expenses. However, Casar — and anyone else in his position — files data about that fundraising on the same form used for campaign reporting.

Casar received $500 from PACs representing the Austin Police Association, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services employees and the Austin Firefighters Association. He also received $1,000 from Austinites for Equity PAC, which is a political action committee for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The Southwest Laborers’ District Council Southwest LiUNA PAC contributed $2,500. Another $2,500 came from developer Perry Lorenz, and Riverside Resources Property Management Ltd. contributed a total of $5,000 in May and June. Howard Yancy of Zydeco Development also contributed $5,000.

Contributing $500 each to Casar’s legal defense fund were the state Sen. Kirk Watson campaign, developer Kirk Rudy and local businessman Channy Soeur. Another developer, Tom Terkel, contributed $250. Engineer Gopal Guthikonda and South by Southwest organizer Roland Swenson each contributed $1,000, and S.L. Teague gave $500.

Frequent Council critic Brian Rodgers contributed $300, and Gary Cobb, who is running for district attorney, gave $100, as did Travis County Democratic Party Chair Jan Soifer.

Lobbyists who would have been unable to donate substantially to Casar’s campaign – given that they are limited to campaign contributions of no more than $25 – have been able to give generously to Casar’s legal defense fund. For example,  McLean & Howard LLP, the law firm of lobbyist Jeff Howard, contributed $1,000.

In an email, Casar told the Austin Monitor that “FYI my legal counsel has informed me that there are no limits for contributions to legal defense funds. However, I’ve personally decided not to take and use money in this fund from registered city lobbyists. You’ll see on my next report that, although they are kind people, we’ve returned contributions from Amelia Lopez, Glen Coleman, and anyone else who my bookkeeper finds is registered to lobby at the City.”

Although visiting Judge Dan Mills has dismissed Pressley’s election contest lawsuit against Casar, citing a lack of evidence that would throw into doubt the outcome of the December runoff election, Pressley has announced her intention to appeal that decision.

Casar won the election by 1,291 votes, or 65 percent to 35 percent. Pressley’s lawyers did not present what the judge considered even a scintilla of credible evidence that would subtract any votes from Casar’s column or add any votes to Pressley’s tally.

During a hearing on sanctions against Pressley and her attorney, Casar’s attorney, Chuck Herring, testified that Casar’s legal bill is currently at about $150,000. An appeal could add another $100,000 to the total, he said.

Mills seemed inclined to assess a penalty against Pressley and her attorney, David Rogers, of at least $93,000. However, since Pressley presumably will be appealing that sanction decision also, Casar’s lawyers will not be seeing any of that money anytime soon. The judge has not yet issued a final order in the matter, although one is expected in the near future.

According to his report filed on Wednesday, Casar has paid Herring & Panzer $7,794.44 so far.

Council Member Greg Casar is pictured here in a December 2014 runoff debate with challenger Laura Pressley.

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