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Flannigan races ahead in fundraising

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 by Jo Clifton

Council Member Jimmy Flannigan has raised more than $9,200 so far this year, according to his campaign finance report, which was filed on Monday. Reports show that Council Member Ellen Troxclair was the only other City Council member to solicit and accept campaign contributions since Jan. 1. But she raised only $1,325 during the six-month period.

Troxclair will be up for reelection in November 2018. Flannigan, on the other hand, will not be up for reelection until November 2020.

The reason that Flannigan, Troxclair and any other would-be candidate for future Council elections have been able to raise funds this early is that former Council Member Don Zimmerman – Flannigan’s opponent in last November’s election – won a partial victory in his federal lawsuit against the city last year.

Zimmerman argued that regulations preventing him and other candidates from collecting money outside the six-month window called for in city rules were unconstitutional. The judge agreed with that argument and also with Zimmerman’s contention that he should be able to keep any funds left over from the campaign for future elections.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, however, agreed with the city that the $350 limit on contributions from individuals was legal. Zimmerman has appealed that part of the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Renea Hicks, Austin’s attorney on the case, told the Austin Monitor the attorneys have finished briefing and are just waiting for the court to indicate whether it will decide the appeal on the briefing documents or will require the attorneys to make an oral argument.

The largest contributor to Troxclair’s campaign was Jay Wiley, who is listed as having contributed $700 in March. His wife or partner’s name is not noted. However, Troxclair told the Monitor that Wiley’s wife, Sally, was also a contributor.

So far, only one candidate has filed the appropriate documentation to begin raising funds to run against Troxclair. That’s Christopher Shane Sexton, who is acting as his own campaign treasurer. Sexton describes himself as a member of the St. Edward’s University Police Department. He loaned his campaign $239.23 and his total political contributions are listed on the report as $310.

Flannigan received contributions from a wide variety of people, including former Council member and legislative candidate Sheryl Cole. Flannigan’s report notes that the campaign returned $300 of the $350 Cole contributed, presumably because she registered as a lobbyist in January. Lobbyists are only allowed to contribute $25 and their spouses are also prohibited from contributing more than that amount.

Flannigan also received a $350 contribution from the Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services Employees political action committee and $350 from former city manager Jesus Garza, who is now CEO of Seton Healthcare Family. (Garza has announced that he will retire in August.) Lobbyists Jeff Howard, Michael Whellan and Pete Winstead also contributed to Flannigan.

Mayor Steve Adler still owes himself more than $449,000 from his November 2014 election. However, his report shows that he collected no political contributions and had no political expenditures during the first six months of this year. Adler has not announced for reelection yet but is widely expected to run again.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo reported no contributions so far and expenditures of $825 during the first six months of the year. More notably, Tovo reported that she still owes herself $161,807 from the campaign that she waged against former Council Member Chris Riley to win her District 9 seat in 2014. Tovo apparently can run for reelection if she collects a large enough number of signatures to place her name on the 2018 ballot. She has declined to discuss the matter publicly but seems likely to run again.

Council Member Leslie Pool reported that she neither collected contributions nor erased any of the remaining balance of her loan to herself between Jan. 1 and June 30. According to the report, Pool still owes herself $52,500 from her campaign last year. She still has $9,059 in her campaign fund and is not up for reelection until 2020.

Council Member Alison Alter reported that she still owes herself $2,500 from her 2016 victory over former Council Member Sheri Gallo. Alter reported that she had spent less than $3,000 and collected no contributions during the past six months.

Gallo reported spending more than $7,400 in the past six months and still maintained nearly $10,500 in her campaign account as of June 30.

Council Member Delia Garza and Council Member Pio Renteria each reported that they did not collect any political contributions during the past six months. Garza still has more than $7,000 in the bank after making a number of contributions to nonprofit organizations, including Austin Community Foundation and Con Mi Madre.

Renteria contributed to Community First! Village and a fund to help pay for the graduation party for Eastside Memorial High School. He also made small contributions to the Beto (O’Rourke) for Texas Campaign and to Constable Carlos Lopez.

Council Member Ora Houston reported that she maintained about $3,400 in her campaign accounts after making contributions to Integral Care and Be the Bridge, Inc. She has not accepted any political contributions this year, according to the report.

Council Member Greg Casar reported spending $371 for legal advice. He did not accept any contributions and still has nearly $8,600 in the bank.

Laura Pressley, Casar’s opponent in the 2014 election – who can’t seem to let that go – has requested that the Texas Supreme Court overturn a judgment that found no problems with Casar’s election. She filed two separate reports, one for her campaign and one for her legal expenses.

The campaign report shows that she still owes herself $22,000. The other report shows that she collected more than $26,000 and spent most of that. The total principal amount of all outstanding loans on that report is $57,712. She received funding of $5,000 from Cornelia Foster of Austin as well as $200 from the Cherokee County Republican Club and $300 from Hood County Tea Party, among others.

As for Zimmerman, he filed three reports. He reported that he had about $688 in his “officeholder account,” and spent just $30 on bank fees. The second account, which was called the “campaign account,” has about $601 in it, according to the report. All the expenditures from this report, $1,615, went to Zimmerman’s attorney for the campaign finance case. The third report also shows the same legal expenditure.

Photo by John Flynn.

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