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Council approves campaign finance rule changes

Friday, April 8, 2016 by Jack Craver

City Council voted Thursday to approve most of the changes to city campaign finance rules proposed by the Office of the City Clerk. However, the clerk’s proposal to align the reporting deadlines with those of the state was nixed by an amendment offered by Council Member Ann Kitchen, who said that she did not want to do away with the additional reports that Austin requires of candidates in the final weeks before Election Day. Council Member Ellen Troxclair read an email from a local election attorney, James Cousar, who argued that Austin’s current rules were hard to understand and abide by, even for experts. Nonetheless, Kitchen’s motion passed, with only Council Member Don Zimmerman in opposition and Troxclair abstaining. Mayor Steve Adler also offered an amendment lowering the threshold – from $25,000 to $10,000 – at which a personal loan to a campaign has to be immediately reported in the final days of the campaign. He argued that the smaller amount still represents a big injection of cash into the race that the public should know about as soon as possible. That measure passed, with only Zimmerman and Council Member Sheri Gallo abstaining. Finally, Council voted to do away with two forms currently required of candidates – a bank reconciliation form and a debt reconciliation form. Although Zimmerman abstained from that vote, he was eager to point out that he had been targeted in an ultimately successful ethics complaint last year for failing to submit both reports, even though several other candidates also had not. Zimmerman also abstained from the vote on the full campaign finance resolution, which was otherwise supported unanimously, noting that he is currently suing the city of Austin in federal court for some of its other campaign finance rules.

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