Tuesday, July 16, 2019 by Jo Clifton

Reports: Running for office is expensive

Mayor Steve Adler’s campaign still owes him more than $449,000 from loans he has made to his campaign starting when he first ran in 2014. When that race was over, the Adler campaign reported owing the candidate more than $418,000. Now, nine months after the November 2018 race against Laura Morrison, Adler owes himself a little more.

District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison reported raising $3,695 in campaign funds in January, February and March and spending $3,589. Council members are prohibited from raising money outside a one-year window that ended in December. So each of the contributions is a violation of the ordinance.

A text from Harper-Madison’s aide on her behalf included the following statement: “The hard part about being new to politics is sometimes you learn the rules the hard way. In this case, my team and I were unaware of the law preventing officeholders from raising money immediately after their successful campaigns to pay down bills that were sent after Election Day … I look forward to reconciling this innocent error.”

Monday was the deadline for filing mid-year campaign finance reports, and every Council member with the apparent exception of Jimmy Flannigan filed their reports on time. Flannigan could not be reached for comment, but the Office of the City Clerk told the Austin Monitor that it had not received his report late Monday afternoon. However, the report could still arrive by mail.

Adler’s main opponent in the November 2018 race, former Council Member Laura Morrison, reported in a July 8 filing that she is maintaining no political contributions and that the campaign still owes her nearly $43,000.

District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo said Monday she borrowed money from personal funds to run for office in 2011 and again in 2014. According to her campaign finance report, she still owes herself nearly $162,000.

Tovo’s 2018 opponent, Danielle Skidmore, reported in January that she had less than $200 in remaining campaign funds and did not owe herself any money.

District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool reported on July 1 that her campaign still owes her $52,500. She did not report collecting any campaign contributions or making any expenditures. Pool still had more than $8,500 in her campaign fund at that time.

District 3 Council Member Pio Renteria filed his July 15 report on July 2, disclosing that the campaign still owes him $2,500. However, that same report indicates that he had more than $4,000 in campaign funds as of June 30.

District 10 Council Member Alison Alter reported that her campaign still owes her $2,500 as of June 25, the day she filed her most recent report. She reported that she did not collect any contributions or make any political expenditures and had no money in her campaign account as of that date.

Rob Walker, Alter’s opponent in the November election, reported that his campaign still owed him nearly $25,000. He indicated that he had not taken any political contributions or made any expenditures this year and that he had zero dollars in his campaign fund.

Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza reported on July 3 that she had taken in no political contributions this year, but was maintaining more than $1,100 in her contribution fund. She reported that the campaign owes her $100.

District 4 Council Member Greg Casar, who fought the longest known battle for a Council seat and was finally declared the winner earlier this year by the Texas Supreme Court, did not take any contributions this year and spent about $1,000. He still has $3,350 in his campaign account. His opponent in the 2014 race, Laura Pressley, reported Monday that her campaign still owes her $22,000.

District 8 Council Member Paige Ellis reported that she still has about $2,700 in campaign funds. However, the campaign does not owe her any money from the 2018 race.

Photo by John Flynn.

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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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