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Political action committees quietly file reports

Friday, July 21, 2017 by Jo Clifton

Although much-maligned in certain circles, political action committees help spread the word in local elections for candidates, bonds and other propositions.

Among the PACs filing with the Office of the City Clerk this month was the Our City Our Safety Our Choice PAC, which supported the successful election to pass stringent rules for governing transportation networking companies such as Uber and Lyft. In spite of that election, however, the Texas Legislature overturned local control of those regulations during the regular 2017 session.

According to the campaign finance report filed with the clerk on Monday, the Our City Our Safety Our Choice PAC collected no contributions and spent less than $950 during the six months starting on Jan. 1 of this year. According to the report, the PAC still owes $18,000 in loans that have yet to be repaid.

Political consultant David Butts told the Austin Monitor that he and fellow consultant Mark Littlefield were the lenders. “It was worth every penny,” said Butts, laughing. The PAC still has a little over $4,000 in its account, but Butts was not particularly hopeful about the possibility of recouping the rest of the money.

Austinites for Equity supports candidates it hopes will look favorably upon issues important to laborers, most importantly city employees. The group supported Alison Alter and Jimmy Flannigan, the candidates who successfully challenged Council members Sheri Gallo and Don Zimmerman in 2016.

Longtime American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees lobbyist Jack Kirfman is the treasurer of that PAC, which also had a quiet six months. The committee reported collecting no contributions and making no political expenditures so far this year. Kirfman reported that the PAC maintained less than $3,600 at the end of June.

The political action committee that supported last November’s $720 million transportation bond election, Austin Forward PAC, raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars last year. But this month’s report shows the group spent only $2,241 in the first six months of 2017 and maintained less than $44 in its account on June 30. That could all change with a new bond election coming, of course.

Former Texas Monthly publisher Mike Levy was the treasurer and principal supporter of a committee opposing last November’s bond election. Sensible Transportation Solutions for Austin reported this week that it had raised $250, spent $3,000, and still owed nearly $27,500.

The Arbor PAC, which helped Alter defeat former Council Member Sheri Gallo, reported no contributions and no expenditures. The group had less than $2,000 in the bank at the end of June.

Stonewall Democrats, which supports liberal Democrats obviously, reported raising just $580 and spending less than $22 so far in 2017. The group had about $4,300 in the bank at the end of June.

The Austin Apartment Association, which files monthly reports, collected $700 in contributions during the first six months of 2017, according to treasurer Kristan Arrona. The report shows that the Austin group gave its state committee, the Texas Apartment Association PAC, $60,000 in June. The group also gave the Imagine Austin Coalition Inc. a donation of $10,000 on June 15, according to the report.

The coalition is four months old according to information found online and its chair is Cid Galindo, with Austin Chamber of Commerce honcho Drew Scheberle serving as vice chair.

Photo by John Flynn.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.

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