Friday, July 15, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Updated: Contribution reports show who’s giving to City Council candidates

Today marks the deadline for filing contribution and expenditure reports for City Council members and candidates, and most have chosen not to file early. However, District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman was among those who filed a report on Thursday, showing that he has collected nearly $36,000 since May 12, the date candidates were allowed to begin gathering contributions.

According to his report, Zimmerman received significant contributions from members of the Armbrust & Brown law firm. The most prominent members of the firm at City Hall — David Armbrust and Richard Suttle — are of course prohibited by city ordinance from donating more than $25 each because they are lobbyists. The same ordinance applies to their wives.

The $50 contribution from Armbrust and his wife is listed under Mr. and Mrs. David Armbrust. However, just for fun we presume, the $50 contribution from the Suttle family is listed as being from Mrs. and Mr. Alison Suttle.

Other nonlobbyist members of the firm were allowed to give the maximum of $350. Those included Sue Littlefield and Kevin Flahive. Other members of the firm who contributed with their spouses and thus could give a total of $700 included John Bartram, Wayne Hollingsworth, Gregg Krumme, Sam Byars and Mark Hawkins.

Also contributing the maximum allowed were Mr. and Mrs. Bob Gregory. Gregory is CEO of Texas Disposal Systems. TDS does business with the city, but Gregory has been a frequent critic of how the city runs its businesses, as is Zimmerman.

Zimmerman also received a contribution of $400 from the McClain law firm of San Antonio, an apparent violation of the city’s campaign finance limits. That law sets the limit at $350. Zimmerman filed a federal suit against the city in December challenging various contribution regulations, but the judge has not yet issued a ruling. Regardless of how that turns out, the case is widely expected to go to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although Council Member Leslie Pool’s contribution and expenditure report has not yet appeared on the city’s website, the District 7 Council member’s campaign consultant, Matt Hersh, was happy to talk about it. He noted that Pool had collected about $32,400 between May 12 and June 30.

Hersh said Pool had received contributions from about 170 individuals as well as from the political action committees representing the police, firefighters and EMS employees. He also named state Reps. Eddie Rodriguez and Celia Israel as contributors as well as former Council Member Sheryl Cole and longtime environmental activist Shudde Fath.

In addition, Hersh said Pool received numerous contributions from neighborhood leaders as well as from Bob Gregory, Ed Wendler, Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend.

Casey Ramos, who is running against Council Member Delia Garza for the District 2 seat, reported raising $480. All of that money was collected by his father, Ricardo Ramos.

Louis Herrin III reported zero contributions and zero expenditures in his race against District 4 Council Member Greg Casar.

Several Council incumbents who are not facing a fall re-election campaign also filed their reports. The Monitor will update this story when the remaining reports have been filed.

Update: As expected, the remaining City Council candidates filed their contribution and expenditure reports on Friday.

District 4 City Council Member Greg Casar raised the most money by far, with a grand total of $78,387.00. That money came from 457 individual contributions — the highest in the City Council race. A press release from Casar’s camp stated, “The campaign believes the report reflects the community’s confidence in Casar’s work at City Hall, along with his focus on a well-organized campaign operation.”

Casar’s list of contributors is extensive (and contains a long list of familiar names.) Those who contributed the maximum $350 include several political action committees: the Austin Firefighters Association, the Austin/Travis County EMS Employee Association, and Education Austin. Casar also won contributions from the Southwest Laborers District Council SWLDC PAC and IBEW 520.

The individuals who have pitched in to help Casar retain his Council seat represent a wide swath of Austin’s political community. Those supporters include Bicycle Sport Shop’s Hill Abel, the Eddie Rodriguez Campaign, Shudde Fath, Cid Galindo, Board of Adjustment member Eric Goff, Dan & Lisa Graham, Texas Disposal System’s Bob Gregory, Planning Commissioner Fayez Kazi, RideScout’s Joseph Kopser, Perry & Sheridan Lorenz, Mark Nathan, Board of Adjustment member Melissa Neslund, affordable housing developer Michael Casias, former mayors pro tem Mike Martinez, Brewster McCracken, and Sheryl Cole (who also serves on the Capital of Texas Media Foundation.)

Travis County District Attorney nominee Margaret Moore, South By Southwest’s Brad Spies, Garner Stoll, community activist Fred Lewis, Save our Springs executive director Bill Bunch., former Council member Chris Riley, Dave Sullivan, former mayor Frank Cooksey, and Austin Pets Alive! executive director Ellen Jefferson also contributed to Casar’s campaign.

In District 6, Zimmerman’s only opponent so far is Jimmy Flannigan, who reported Friday that he had raised $46,951.54 from more than 350 donors, beating Zimmerman’s collection by about $10,000. Allison Heinrich, Flannigan’s campaign manager, bragged in a press release that Flannigan had outpaced Zimmerman not only in the amount raised but also in the total number of donors.

“Additionally, Flannigan boasts nearly three times as many donors from within District 6,” Heinrich wrote in a press release. Among Flannigan’s supporters are State Rep. Celia Israel, Williamson County Democratic Party Chair John Bucy, and Erick Benz, vice-president of Bike Austin. president of Canyon Creek Neighborhood Association.

Other supporters include long time civic activist Joe and Janis Pinnelli, Constable Carlos Lopez, Eric Schultz at the Spicewood Estates Homeowners Association and Fred and Cathy Morgan, who are active in the Anderson Mill neighborhood she said. Flannigan has also received early endorsements from AFSCME, Austin Central Labor Council, and LiUNA, and the Victory Fund, all labor organizations eager to see Zimmerman’s departure from the dais, and the Victory Fund, which works to get LGBT leaders elected to office.

Of course, Flannigan, who lost to Zimmerman in the December 2014 runoff, will most likely need to spend money making up for the fact that his name recognition is not nearly as high as the incumbent’ s. Zimmerman has gotten considerable press for the positions he has taken, frequently in opposition to the rest of the Council.

District 10 Council Member Sheri Gallo has raised $44,434 so far. Among the many who contributed the maximum $350 are the Austin Apartment Association PAC, the Austin Firefighters Association PAC, the Austin Police Association PAC, Dan & Lisa Graham of the Austin Community Foundation (among other things), Bob & Kay Gregory, Public Safety Commissioner Mike Levy, Perry and Sheridan Lorenz, Endeavor’s Kirk Rudy, Planning Commissioner Patricia Seeger, former Mayor Bruce Todd, Historic Landmark Commissioner David Whitworth, Elizabeth Christian and Travis County Republican Vice Chair Roger Borgelt.

In addition, Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty and his wife Charlyn contributed, former Council Member Randi Shade, and former mayor pro tem (and Capital of Texas Media Foundation board member) Sheryl Cole contributed all pitched in to Gallo’s campaign.

Alison Alter, who just this week designated a campaign treasurer after deciding to run against Gallo, did not have to file a report because she was not collecting donations prior to June 30, the cutoff date for Friday’s report.

Council Member Leslie Pool received support from LiUNA, an international labor union PAC, as well as from the three Austin public safety employee political action committee, as well as numerous Democratic activists.

Natalie Gauldin, who is running against Pool, was rumored to be a candidate for some time before she filed her designation of campaign treasurer on June 21. So, she only had 10 days of fundraising to report on, so it is not surprising that she reported raising only $20,460.

Gauldin received a $350 donation from Jennifer Gibson Hebert, a plaintiff in the lawsuit to overturn Austin short-term rental regulations filed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. According to the TPPF website, Hebert and her husband live in California and own a short-term rental in Austin that serves as a home for the couple when they come to town.

Gauldin’s contributors also include Jeb Boyt, who ran against Pool for the District 7 seat in 2014 and Eric Goff, a new urbanist and member of AURA. Goff, a volunteer with the campaign, told the Monitor that he had analyzed Gauldin’s donations and found more than half were $25 or less. For example, former Texas House candidate Huey Rey Fischer gave $10 and Tyler Markham, who works at a food bank gave $5, and Sam Bradford, manager at Pok-e-Jo’s Barbeque, donated $25.

Goff said he was helping Gauldin because, “We’re in a housing crisis and Natalie recognizes that and wants to run to address that crisis.”

Other contributors include David Whitworth, a developer of infill homes and Historic Landmark commissioner, Joseph Strickland, owner of Home Slice Pizza, and engineer Fayez Kazi, a member of the Planning Commission.

District 2 City Council Member Delia Garza has raised $25,162 to date. Among her supporters are the Austin Firefighters Association PAC, the Austin Police Association PAC, and the Austin/Travis County EMS Employee Association PAC, and , the Southwest Laborers District Council SWLDC PAC, all of which contributed the maximum $350. Given Garza’s background as a firefighter, those contributions are not unexpected. Garza also received $350 from the Eddie Rodriguez Campaign,, Shudde Fath, UTC commissioner JD Gins, Dan & Lisa Graham of the Austin Community Foundation, TDS’ Bob & Kay Gregory, Planning Commissioner Fayez Kazi, Perry Lorenz, and former mayor pro tem Mike Martinez.

Garza also found support from Austin Pets Alive! executive director Ellen Jefferson, State Rep. Celia Israel, Lloyd Doggett for Congress, the Margaret Gomez Campaign Account, presumptive Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore, and community activist Cynthia Valdez, and former mayor pro tem (and CoTMF board member) Sheryl Cole.

District 2 challenger Wesley Faulkner reports $420 in contributions. Though that’s a small amount, we did notice the familiar name of Joel Rasmussen in there. Rasmussen contributed $100 to the campaign and is the founder of the Austin Rental Alliance and frequent speaker during the many Short-Term Rental Ordinance discussions at City Hall.

A complete list of Austin Monitor donors can be found here. Photo by M.Fitzsimmons (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

This story has been corrected to clarify the mission of the Victory Fund and to reflect the correct spelling of Cathy Morgan’s name and the correct position of Erick Benz.

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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.

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