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Two political action committees fight city Prop A

Thursday, October 31, 2019 by Jo Clifton

While any enthusiasm there might have been for the city ballot measure known as Proposition A has apparently dwindled, Anthony Precourt and his company are taking no chances. Austin TeamCo LLC, owner of Austin FC, gave the Austin United Political Action Committee $200,000 in the month ending Oct. 25 to campaign against the proposition, which started as an effort to prevent the city from leasing McKalla Place for a soccer stadium. Longtime Democratic consultant David Butts is also working with Austin United.

A second political action committee called PACE PAC also opposes Prop A and has received funding from a different group of Austinites. Notable donors to PACE PAC include C3 Presents, producer of Austin City Limits, which donated $30,000 during the past month, and Forefront Networks, which also contributed $5,000 to fight Prop A in the past month. Forefront Networks lists the Austin Trail of Lights as its flagship event.

All of these donations can be found on the Austin city clerk’s website in the “8th Day Before Election” reports.

Initially, the supporters of Prop A thought they might stop Precourt and Austin FC from building the stadium without a public vote. But after it became clear that the time for that had passed and a legal memo showed that leases and agreements between the city and many other community and cultural venues could be disrupted, a spokesman for the group’s political action committee, Fair Play Austin, announced that they were ending the effort and dissolving the PAC.

Nevertheless, opponents of the proposition were taking no chances. Political consultant Mark Littlefield, who is working against Prop A for PACE PAC, told the Austin Monitor, “One PAC is set up to take soccer money and the other is set up to take nonprofit cultural arts money. In case the campaign got messy we wanted to make sure the YMCA and the Long Center and all those folks … that their support was only that Prop A is bad.”

Littlefield said about 25,000 people had voted countywide through Tuesday. Early voting continues through Friday and Election Day is on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Proposition B, like Proposition A, arrived on the ballot after a successful petition drive. However, supporters of the Unconventional Austin PAC are still fighting the proposed $1.2 billion expansion of the convention center. Their proposal, if approved by voters, would require voter approval of expansions costing more than $20 million and would reallocate the way it spends some of its Hotel Occupancy Tax money.

Unconventional Austin reported spending about $46,000 in the month ending on Oct. 25. James Skaggs, who is a frequent contributor to municipal campaigns, donated $9,000. Mike Levy, the former publisher of Texas Monthly, contributed $1,000 and Zachary Triplett, who works for Facebook, contributed $10,000.

On the other side of this fight is PHAM PAC, which opposes Prop B. Jim Wick, the consultant who served as campaign manager for Mayor Steve Adler’s successful reelection campaign, is working for PHAM PAC.

Not surprisingly, this PAC has received a considerable amount of funding from organizations like the Austin Hotel and Lodging Association, which contributed $5,000 on Oct. 14, and 800 Congress, an event venue that contributed the same amount on Oct. 25. Local consultant and former Assistant City Manager Rudy Garza gave the group $1,000 on Sept. 30. Jonathan Coon, founder of 1-800-Contacts and founder and CEO of Impossible Ventures, gave the PAC $10,300 during this reporting period. Additionally, Endeavor Real Estate Group Limited and Hunt Capital Holdings LLC of New York City each contributed an additional $10,000.

The final political action committee showing up on the city clerk’s website under 8-day reports is Our Town Austin, started by Sharon Blythe. The group had less than two weeks to raise money and reported just $5,436.68 in contributions and $620.08 in expenditures. This group’s ambitious goal is to recall Mayor Steve Adler and Council members Kathie Tovo, Paige Ellis, Natasha Harper-Madison, Pio Renteria and Ann Kitchen. The PAC received no particularly large contributions. Former Travis County Auditor Susan Spataro contributed $259.92.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that David Butts works for PHAM PAC. He does not; he works with Austin United PAC.

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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