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Candidate finds finance rules tricky

Wednesday, November 12, 2014 by Jo Clifton

A curious reader asked the Austin Monitor what District 3 candidate Sabino ‘Pio’ Renteria meant when he said in his campaign finance report that he had paid the City of Austin $125 for “advertising,” without further explanation. We asked, and Renteria said advertising was the only category he could think of for the permit fee he paid the city for eight days of driving a sound truck around his district. While Renteria seems to be having a good time running for City Council, when the Monitor asked him about the expenditure, he had a complaint. Basically, Renteria said, it is difficult for the average person to navigate the contribution and expenditure reports that candidates are required to file. “It seems like they want you to be a lawyer or hire a consultant, and I’m a grass-roots candidate,” he said, not one who can afford to hire someone else to fill out the reports. “People are so picky, and they are trying to distract you from what you’re trying to accomplish.” Alfred Stanley, who has raised money and advised candidates for years about how to fill out such forms, said he thought that Renteria’s failure to describe the fee was innocuous. “In the old days, I could call the Texas Ethics Commission and they would explain it to me,” he said. “But four or five years ago, they started taking the position that they couldn’t tell you,” because if they told you the wrong thing, they might be liable. Stanley said the city has taken the same position. That leaves candidates who cannot afford legal counsel or consultants on their own, and that should not be the case, he said. Still, Renteria said he is excited about the race, which pits him against his sister, Susana Almanza, in the Dec. 16 runoff. Renteria raised $5,734 and loaned his campaign $1,000. He spent $4,865 and came in second. Almanza reported that she raised $20,765 and spent $15,242.

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