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Ballot item backers report $100K in donations

Friday, April 2, 2021 by Jo Clifton

Austinites for Progressive Reform, the group that’s sponsoring propositions D, E, F, G and H on the May 1 ballot, has reported raising more than $100,000 since the beginning of the year to fund its campaigns. The group has spent more than $50,000 and has cash on hand of more than $69,000, according to its latest report.

The largest donor appearing on the report was Jonathan Soros, son of George and CEO of JS Capital Management, who gave the group $25,000. APR describes Jonathan Soros as “an advocate for campaign finance reform and the abolition of the electoral college.” The elder Soros is well-known for his philanthropy to progressive and Democratic causes.

APR’s leaders include entrepreneur Andrew Allison and political consultants Jim Wick and Laura Hernandez, among others, but it was Allison’s initial funding that got the group moving and gathered signatures to place four items on the ballot. The propositions would establish a strong-mayor system for Austin’s city government; change the date of the mayoral election to coincide with presidential elections; establish ranked-choice voting if and when it becomes legal in the state of Texas; and give each Austin voter a $25 voucher to contribute to the Council candidate of their choice and a second $25 voucher for a mayoral candidate during mayoral election years.

Several national groups contributed to the effort, including Stand Up America, Represent US and End Citizens United, each of which gave APR $5,000. Campaign manager Jim Wick said, “The support we have received from national democracy reform leaders shows the critical importance of these amendments to the national fight for a stronger democracy.”

Other contributors include Nav Sooch, chairman of Silicon Labs, whose donation is listed at $20,000. Eugene and Steven Sepulveda donated $5,000 during the three-month time period, and entrepreneur Christopher Clayton of Jackson, Wyoming, donated $5,000.

Other contributors include winemaker and philanthropist Suzanne Deal Booth, who donated more than $5,000, and digital entrepreneur Todd Dipaola of InMarket, who donated $2,500. NAACP President Nelson Linder and Mimi Marziani, executive director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, also donated to APR.

According to a news release, APR has raised $271,440 to date and spent nearly $293,000. In addition, APR has received $92,000 in loans. The group says that “more than 50 percent of the campaign’s expenditures to date are attributable to the campaign’s successful community engagement process and petition drive.” The group reported holding 17 meetings over a one-month period. During the petition drive, APR collected about 24,000 signatures to place its proposals on the May 1 ballot.

Another group, Austinites for Democracy Dollars, which supports Proposition H to give voters vouchers for candidates, reported raising $9,500 and spending a little more than $5,300 between Jan. 1 and March 22. Contributors include developer Perry Lorenz, who donated $2,500, and retired businessman Kim Kyongmee, who donated $2,000. Tracy DiLeo, a partner at the Killam Company, donated $1,000. Other contributors with familiar names include Linda Bailey, Joyce Basciano, William Burkhardt, Michael Hebert and David King, all of whom have been involved with city government.

Early voting for the May 1 election starts on April 19 and continues through April 27.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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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