Campaign Finance

Austin’s got a $2 million mayor

This story was updated at 4:14pm January 26th to correct the statement made about Jennifer Virden’s total spending. The $220,000 she repaid to herself...

Court denies Fair Campaign restraining order

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Guerrero and Silva earn $33,000 runoff bonuses

It’s official: A City of Austin spokesman said in an email at 2:12pm November 17, 2022: “The City’s Law Department has reviewed the City...

Charter Revisions Flushed Down the Drain

Two least substantial items on council agenda, if put on the ballot and passed would block other charter changes for two years It looks like...

Petition Seeks Austin Efficiency Audit

People are already hustling signatures to get this measure on the November 6 ballot Michael Searle is a tall man who’s undertaken a tall order....

Council Campaigns Funded by Tax Dollars?

Council Campaigns Funded by Tax Dollars?

Seattle council member elected with Democracy Voucher funds
briefed Austin residents and Charter Revision Review Commission

By Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2018
Posted Friday February 23, 2018 10:27am
Updated Friday February 23, 2018 12:24pm to add late breaking news at bottom
Updated Wednesday May 9, 2018 9:51am (Charter Review Commission--not Charter Revision Commission)

Teresa Mosqueda“Hi, I'm Teresa and I'm running for City Council as Democracy Voucher candidate. Would you be willing to sign right here?”

They would say, “Sure.”

Then I would say, “Would you give me $10?”

“It was a little awkward,” she told members of the 2018 Charter Revision Review Commission who met in the community room at the Mueller HEB grocery store Monday, February 19, 2018.

That’s how Seattle Council Member Teresa Mosqueda described her first-ever attempt to run for public office in 2017. She said she inserted herself into public marches and walked backwards to talk to people while soliciting support, getting signatures on her petition, and asking for contributions.

At the time she was running, Seattle was having frequent marches, with lots of people in the streets around the time Donald Trump was nominated as the GOP presidential candidate, “marches for women’s rights, human rights, and I was out there walking backwards,” she said.

Mosqueda’s presentation to the Commission was an encore for a longer talk she gave to a larger audience at the Manchaca Branch Library Sunday, February 18, 2018. That presentation, which included the entire slide show (linked at the bottom of this story) lasted nearly an hour and a half, including time to answer questions.

As a 36-year-old Latina and labor activist, Mosqueda said she was virtually unknown to Seattle’s population of 705,000 people. More than 500,000 of them were registered voters, and each had received four $25 Democracy Vouchers in the mail in early January 2017.

How Democracy Vouchers worked

Tax Dollars for Council Campaigns?

 Tax Dollars for Council Campaigns?

Charter Revision Review Commission considering
public financing to boost voter participation
and reduce advantages of personal wealth

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2018
Posted Wednesday January 10, 2018 3:41pm
Correction posted Thursday January 11, 2018 12:47pm (re: Ryan's role in drafting the Seattle measure)
Updated Wednesday May 9, 2018 9:55am (Charter Review Commission--not Charter Revision Commission)

Wayne Barnett and Paul Ryan briefed the 2018 Charter Review Commission January 8, 2018The 2018 Charter Revision Review Commission on Monday evening heard a briefing on a preliminary report prepared by its Campaign Finance and Ethics Work Group. The proposal would utilize property taxes from the City’s general fund to partially finance the election campaigns of mayor and council candidates.

To benefit candidates would have to accept lower contribution limits as well as limits on self-funding and total expenditures. The proposed system would replace the current policy of disbursing funds to candidates who sign the campaign pledge and make it into a runoff.

The proposal also includes establishing a nonpartisan Ethics Commission with enforcement powers to include the ability to issue subpoenas, audit candidate records, and fine offenders. It would be independent of the Council and City Manager, report to a citizen board, and be equipped with expert staff and adequate resources.

The plan unanimously approved by the four-member group requires the Commission’s approval and public hearings before it could be recommended to the City Council for placement on the November ballot.

If placed on the November 2018 ballot and approved by voters the new system would take effect in the 2020 City Council elections.

Public financing would boost democracy

Zimmerman Complaint Finally Resolved

 Zimmerman Complaint Finally Resolved

Texas Ethics Commission took more
than two years to settle the matter

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2017
Posted Monday, June 26, 2017 2:33pm

Don ZimmermanAn ethics complaint against then District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman was resolved by the Texas Ethics Commission June 12, 2017. It took the agency 28 months to get the job done.

The complaint filed February 5, 2015, alleged that Zimmerman illegally used campaign funds to pay his wife $2,000 for work she did for his 2014 council campaign.

The Texas Ethics Commission completed its consideration of the sworn complaint by entering into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with Zimmerman. The document states that Zimmerman acknowledges the prohibition against such expenditures, and he consented to forego adversarial evidentiary hearings and formal adjudication by the Commission.

Zimmerman escaped being fined for the infraction, common in similar cases such as In the Matter of James C. Doyal SC-31108180, because he had personally loaned $20,000 to his campaign and considered the $2,000 payment to his spouse as “partial reimbursement” for the loan.

In essence the Commission allowed Zimmerman to reclassify the campaign funds paid to his wife for her personal services as a partial repayment of a loan that he personally made to his campaign.

In a telephone interview today, Zimmerman told The Austin Bulldog that he had not been aware of the prohibition against paying his wife from campaign fund. This despite the fact that the City Clerk provides copies of applicable regulations to all candidates.

“If I had shacked up with Jennifer, then I could pay her while living in sin. That looks like marriage discrimination,” he said. “Once it was pointed out that the payment was improper, I said, “Fine, I’ll credit that payment against the loan.’ ”

Complainant dismayed