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Campaign finance reports reveal oddities

Monday, November 10, 2014 by Jo Clifton

First-time mayoral candidate Todd Phelps, who came in fourth in the Nov. 4 election with about 10 percent of the vote, evidently has some odd interpretations of campaign finance law. Phelps’ reports, generally not filed on time, also leave out the names of most contributors. But he seems to have gotten the most bang for the buck, spending just 84 cents per vote. Some of the contributors he does name are familiar to Austin political watchers. For example, Travis County Pct. 2 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty reportedly gave Phelps $350. The same report indicates that Jim Skaggs, the head of the anti-rail PAC known as Citizens Against Rail Taxes, or CART, contributed $700. That seems unlikely. It was probably Skaggs and his wife who contributed that amount, since $350 is the legal limit for individual contributors. However, most of Phelps’ contributors remain anonymous, which the law does not allow. Phelps also filed one report on Oct. 6 showing he had loaned his campaign $4,600. He also filed five separate reports on Election Day showing loans from himself to the campaign on various dates. Phelps says he loaned himself a total of $26,700. As far as can be determined, Phelps spent about $15,000. He won Precinct 232 in far West Austin, with 29 percent of the vote, or 33 votes. Council Member Mike Martinez and attorney Steve Adler, who advanced to the runoff last week, both received 28 votes in that small precinct, or 25 percent of the vote. Also, Skaggs’ PAC finished the election a winner and reported more than $266,000 still in its treasury. Skaggs contributed $50,000 to the PAC on the last report. Because it is a special purpose committee, it cannot now support a candidate with those funds, according to longtime Austin fundraiser Alfred Stanley. Stanley said if the PAC has not received corporate money, it could contribute $350 to candidates of its choosing. However, he added, the PAC may not now turn all of its money and efforts to supporting a candidate because it does not have the name of the candidate in its title. So we’ll keep an eye on where that money goes next.

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