He sure needs it with opponent setting fundraising records; PACs independent spending now more than $610,000
While runoff candidates are scrambling to raise money that they decide how to spend in seeking victory, 20 political action committees (PACs) involved in the mayoral and city council elections more than doubled their independent expenditures since the November 4 general election.
Since then, PACs have laid out more than $347,000 for a total to date of $610,000. (For details, see spreadsheet Independent Expenditures for 2014 Austin Mayor and City Council Elections through December 8, 2014.)
Bob Nicks, president of the Austin Firefighters Association, raised eyebrows in late October when he told The Austin Bulldog that its political action committees (PACs) had a $200,000 campaign budget for the mayor and City Council elections.
Turns out that was an understatement. Firefighters have now poured more than $238,000 into independent expenditures—money spent to support a candidate without coordinating with a candidate’s own campaign—on behalf of the candidates it backs. And the PAC is about to spend an additional $15,000 for political mailers, Nicks said.
More than $200,000 of Austin Firefighter Association funds have been spent since the November 4 general election—a startling $170,000 of which has been poured into the last-ditch effort on behalf of mayoral candidate Mike Martinez, an incumbent council member.
Martinez trailed runoff opponent Steve Adler by more than 12,000 votes on November 4, getting a hair under 30 percent of the votes cast that day to Adler’s nearly 37 percent.
The latest poll commissioned by the Austin Monitor and published December 5 showed Adler widening his lead over Martinez 56-39 percent, with only 5 percent of the 942 likely voters polled being undecided.
The Austin American-Statesman today reported that Adler has raised more than $1 million during his campaign and loaned it another $360,000, exceeding by leaps and bounds the resources available to any previous Austin mayoral candidate.
The independent expenditures firefighters made to support Martinez in the runoff include $100,000 for broadcast and cable television ads, $50,000 for “pre-roll video” that plays to targeted audiences on the Internet, and $20,000 for live telephone calls, according to PAC reports.
“We’re not counting Mike out but we know he’s got a higher burden at this point, ” Nicks said Monday. Martinez is not only a former firefighter but once headed the association. “Firefighters are a loyal group and once we build relationships with someone we will back them to the teeth. … We’re not going to jump ship because we’re reading the tea leaves and he’s not doing as well as we’d like.”
So loyal are the firefighters, in fact, that the Association’s 1,010 dues-paying members voted to kick in a total of $122.08 each over 16 pay periods to back endorsed candidates.
Besides the major expenditures for Martinez, the Austin Firefighters Association spent $15,000 for a campaign mailer and nearly $1,400 for yard signs to support District 8 candidate Ellen Troxclair. The Association also spent minor amounts for yard signs and supplies to boost runoff candidates Sabino Renteria in District 3, Greg Casar in District 4, Leslie Pool in District 7, and Mandy Dealey in District 10.
Cole won’t endorse a mayoral candidate
Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole got almost 15 percent of the votes in the November 4 election to place third in the mayoral contest, while Todd Phelps, a country-western musician, got nearly 10 percent. Cole told The Austin Bulldog that both Adler and Martinez have asked for her endorsement, with no luck.
“I just don’t feel like I need to make an endorsement,” said Cole, whose term will officially end when the new council is inaugurated January 6.
Why not endorse?
“I have a decent relationship with both of them and concerns with both of them,” she said.
Phelps did not return a call requesting a comment.
Political parties kick in too
As The Austin Bulldog reported August 13, the Travis County Democratic Party got involved early on with the mayoral and city council elections by training candidates and providing support through the Voter Access Network software, while the Republican counterparts were taking a hands-off approach through the November 4 general election.
But in the runoffs the Travis County GOP PAC has made independent expenditures totaling $15,967 to support Republican candidates Don Zimmerman in District 6, Ellen Troxclair in District 8, and Sheri Gallo in District 10.
Of that amount $14,000 went to consulting firm Murphy Nasica for grassroots services and $1,967 for printing.
The Travis County Democrats spent just $768 for printing materials to support District 4 candidate Greg Casar, District 6 candidate Jimmy Flannigan, District 8 candidate Ed Scruggs, and District 10 candidate Mandy Dealey, plus AISD District 1 candidate Edmund “Ted“ Gordon.
Other PAC runoff spending
The Austin Board of Realtors PAC spent $10,468 on a campaign mailer and radio ads in support of District 4 candidate Greg Casar while also spending $15,450 for a campaign mailer for District 6 candidate Jimmy Flannigan.
The Coalition for Austin Neighborhoods PAC spent $20,288 for a two-page ad in the Austin American-Statesman attacking longtime political consultant David Butts and the four candidates he’s advising: Greg Casar in District 4, Leslie Pool in District 7, Ed Scruggs in District 8, and Mandy Dealey in District 10.
The contributions that paid for this controversial ad were made by PAC treasurer Ian Marcotte totaling $20,500, according to the PAC’s Contribution and Expenditure Report filed December 8. The report describes Marcotte as a self-employed political researcher. Marcotte has proven elusive to journalists but this report lists a home address of 6006 Turnstone Court. That Dove Springs home is owned by another person, according to records of the Travis County Tax Office and Travis County Appraisal District.
The Progress for Austin PAC spent $19,660 on a mailer attacking mayoral candidate Martinez. For details see The Austin Bulldog report of December 4.
Austinites for Equity—whose treasurer is Jack Kirfman of the local chapter of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees—spent a total of $8,260 on a variety of efforts to support Martinez for mayor, Jimmy Flannigan in District 6, and Ed Scruggs in District 8. The PAC then reinforced its position by paying for campaign mailers of $1,545 to oppose District 4 candidate Laura Pressley, $4,471 to oppose Don Zimmerman in District 6, and $4,915 to oppose Ellen Troxclair in District 8
Both Zimmerman and Troxclair are Republicans. Kirfman said the anti-Zimmerman mailer included a photograph of the candidate burning the United Nations flag. Troxclair worked for State Representative Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs, a Tea Party favorite who defeated four-term incumbent Democrat Patrick Rose in 2010. Pressley is running against the PAC-backed candidate Greg Casar in District 4.
“A Tea Party person is not good for us,” Kirfman told The Austin Bulldog. “We don’t need Washington-style gridlock on the Austin City Council.”
The Austin Police Association PAC, which had not previously spent anything on behalf of mayoral candidates, weighed in with $15,009 to print and mail campaign materials in support of Adler.
The Shudde Fath PAC paid $1,450 for two Austin Chronicle ads in support of mayoral candidate Martinez, and has one more ad coming, she said.
The Sierra Club PAC of Texas paid $725 for an Austin Chronicle ad in support of its endorsed candidates: Ora Houston in District 1, Almanza in District 3, Casar in District 4, Flannigan in District 6 (in lieu of Matt Stillwell, who didn’t make the runoff), Pool in District 7, Scruggs in District 8, and Dealey in District 10.
This report was made possible by contributions to The Austin Bulldog, which operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to provide investigative reporting in the public interest. You can help sustain The Austin Bulldog’s reporting by making a tax-deductible contribution.
Related Bulldog coverage:
Bulldog Defends Zimmerman Lawsuit, November 25, 2014