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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Austin4All may be starting new campaign
Monday, March 21, 2016 by Jo Clifton
Austin4All, the political action committee that attempted to place the recall of City Council Member Ann Kitchen on the ballot – but failed only because the signatures were not notarized – may be preparing to start the process again. According to city spokesman Bryce Bencivengo, Ben Wetmore – who identified himself as the group’s attorney – filed an open records request for the petition last week, and the city provided a copy with the dates of birth of the petitioners blacked out. The Austin Monitor asked City Clerk Jannette Goodall whether Austin4All would be able to glean any additional information from the copies that it could not have gotten from the originals. Goodall said, “They probably would if they could understand our codes,” referring to markings the clerk’s office made on the petitions in seeking to validate the signatures. She said it would be easy to figure out which of the signatures were duplicates, for example. Citizens in Kitchen’s District 5 who signed the first petition should not be surprised if someone shows up on their doorstep asking them to sign a similar petition. Goodall reported to Council in a memo that the group had collected 4,935 valid signatures to initiate the recall process, more than the 4,848 required. When the Monitor called the phone number listed on the State Bar of Texas website for Wetmore, we reached the voicemail for the American Phoenix Foundation. No one from American Phoenix or Austin4All returned our call. Wetmore has been associated with the foundation and its leader, Joe Basel, for several years. Basel was one of four men arrested by the FBI in 2010 for entering the Louisiana office of Sen. Mary Landrieu under false pretenses. According to The New York Times, Wetmore apparently was not involved in that incident but provided the Phoenix provocateurs with a place to stay when they came to New Orleans to carry out the sting. The American Phoenix Foundation also raised hackles at the Texas Legislature last year when it announced that it had surreptitiously recorded 800 hours of conversations with legislators and lobbyists. In the meantime, the Travis County Democratic Party unanimously passed a resolution on Saturday opposing the recall and criticizing the campaign as “a thinly disguised attempt to subvert local democracy.”