Friday, July 17, 2020 by Jo Clifton

PAC readies to oppose rail bond

The political action committee Our Mobility Our Future, whose backers plan to oppose a proposition on the November ballot to fund the Project Connect transit system, reported this week that they had collected more than $98,000 during the reporting period that started in January. The PAC also reports $75,000 in pledged contributions.

City Council has not yet voted to put the $9.8 billion project on the November ballot, but is expected to do so in August.

Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, a longtime opponent of rail, contributed $14,000 to the effort during the latest reporting period. He told the Austin Monitor that he has actually given $20,000 total to the effort, counting a contribution he made last fall.

Businessman John Lewis contributed $24,000 during the five months covered by the report, and got $5,000 back, according to the PAC report.

Daugherty explained that he, Lewis and Jim Skaggs had agreed to put in $20,000 each last fall. However, Lewis gave more than that and Daugherty convinced him to take some of the money back, which he may give to another organization. The report also shows that Skaggs gave the organization $14,000 during this time period.

Clarification: Campaign spokeswoman Tori Moreland further explained that Daugherty, Lewis and Skaggs had all chipped in to fund a research effort in the fall to help them decide whether to oppose the bond. However, that money was spent prior to formation of the PAC. The July 15 report is the first one for this committee.

Vicki Roberts of Austin, who is described as “retired” in the PAC document, has pledged $50,000 and John McCall of Spicewood, also described as retired, has pledged $24,000. Additional pledges include $10,000 from the Charles Maund Toyota dealership and $10,000 from Stejo Investments LP.

The PAC has spent about $42,000 and had about $47,000 on hand as of June 30.

In addition to the Project Connect proposal, a coalition of individuals, organizations and businesses has sent a letter to Council requesting that it put a $750 million Safe Mobility Bond on the November ballot. The group emphasizes the need for sidewalks, bike lanes and trails to make walking and bicycling in the city safer.

Daugherty told the Monitor his group would not be opposing new sidewalks and bike lanes.

Ted Siff, who supports both mobility bonds, said Wednesday he expects a pro-bond PAC to form in August.

Our Town Austin, organized by cemetery advocate Sharon Blythe, has worked to recall Mayor Steve Adler and five Council members who are not on the ballot in November: Natasha Harper-Madison, Pio Renteria, Ann Kitchen, Paige Ellis and Kathie Tovo. Although the group was collecting petitions to put the recall on the November ballot, it has not been visible recently.

The group reported raising just $2,275 and spending $3,864 during the period that ended June 30. As of that date, it reported having just $674 in the bank.

HomePAC, the political action committee of Home Builders Association of Greater Austin, reported it had nearly $40,000 in political contributions in the bank on June 30. It collected only $1,020 in personal contributions and $500 in corporate contributions, and spent nothing during the period ending June 30.

The Real Estate Council of Austin Advancing Democracy PAC reported on its monthly report that it had received only $1,023 in contributions this month and spent nothing. The group maintained a little over $20,000 in contributions.

The Austin Board of Realtors PAC reported collecting nearly $46,000 and spending more than $27,000 in political expenditures between Jan. 1 and June 30. The group reported it still had more than $262,000 as of the end of June.

Another advocacy group, Voices of Austin, which features some familiar supporters, among them former Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos and former Council Member Ora Houston, is not a political action committee and therefore is not required to file a report. Longtime political consultant Peck Young is serving as the group’s executive director. He has said that the group hopes to raise $500,000-$750,000 this year to educate the public. However, they will not be urging voters to vote in a specific way on bonds or candidates, he said.

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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November 2020 elections

Political Action Committees: An organization that raises money privately to influence elections and/or legislation.

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