Guerrero and Silva earn $33,000 runoff bonuses

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Daniela Silva and Linda Guerrero played by the rules and will reap the reward of splitting $66,000 to fuel their runoff campaigns in District 3 and District 9, respectively.

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 Code and determined that District 3 runoff candidate Daniela Silva and District 9 runoff candidate Linda Guerrero are eligible to receive equal shares of the $66,126.54 (that’s in the) Austin Fair Campaign Finance Fund. No other runoff candidates filed timely campaign contracts so no other candidates are eligible to receive funds.”

Updated 3:15pm November 17, 2022, to include attorney Bill Aleshire’s statement about this result: “My clients (Guerrero and Bazan) are glad to see the City Clerk will follow the law now despite previous misinterpretation.  None of the other candidates have any excuse for expecting public funding, because they did not comply with the clear requirements of the City Code and the Election Code. If they wanted public funding, they should have signed the Fair Campaign contract within 30 days of ‘becoming a candidate.’ They should have known that, among other ways, accepting a campaign contribution means they became a candidate, then and there, for purposes of the City’s Fair Campaign Fund law and the state campaign finance laws.”

This story was updated at 9:15am November 16, 2022, to state correctly that Linda Guerrero is a candidate for District 9 (not District 8 as previously stated).

Guerrero’s attorney says he will file suit if the city authorizes Fair Campaign Fund payments to other runoff candidates

Myrna Rios

On November 11th via email, Austin City Clerk Myrna Rios told The Austin Bulldog that two of the eight candidates competing in runoff elections would be eligible to receive funding from the Austin Fair Campaign Finance Fund.

Rios had informed attorney Bill Aleshire of the same result November 10th.

Then the Law Department intervened. Yesterday the City’s Media Relations Office informed the Bulldog that the winners’ names are not official.

“Our Law Department is undertaking further legal analysis to make a final determination on which candidates are eligible for Campaign Finance Fund payments,” Media Relations Manager Andy Tate said in an email.

Bill Aleshire
Bill Aleshire

Aleshire, who represents the Bulldog on public information requests, had notified city officials November 9th that three of the runoff candidates—Jose Velasquez in District 3, Ryan Alter in District 5, and Zohaib Qadri in District 9—were ineligible for payments because they had accepted campaign contributions more than 30 days before signing a Campaign Contract. He reviewed the qualifications of runoff candidates at the request of Betsy Greenberg, a member of the city’s Ethics Review Commission, who had sought guidance from the city clerk.

Today Aleshire told the Bulldog that if the city decides to authorize payments to Alter, Qadri or Velasquez he will file suit on behalf of client Guerrero. He said Guerrero would have standing to sue for two reasons: (1) her opponent Qadri does not qualify, and (2) making payments to candidates who do not qualify would dilute the amount of funds Guerrero would get. He said District 5 candidate Stephanie Bazan would also have standing to sue, since payments made to Alter would give him an unearned advantage in the runoff.

“Just because the City wrongly gave ineligible candidates public funding in the past is no excuse for not properly applying the law now and in the future,” Aleshire said.

Our findings

So, the city has not yet decided who will get a share of the funds.

That said, because of my experience in reporting on how Austin Fair Campaign Finance Funds have been distributed in the past, sometimes inappropriately, and my research of the rules and qualifications of this year’s runoff candidates, the Bulldog finds that District 3 runoff candidate Daniela Silva and District 9 runoff candidate Linda Guerrero should get equal shares of the $66,126.54 in the Fund.

That’s $33,063.27 each for Silva and Guerrero.

As the Bulldog reported November 3rd, Silva had raised total campaign contributions of $30,132 through the final pre-election campaign finance report of October 31st. So her share is greater than what she raised since kicking off her campaign March 4th.

Guerrero raised $71,915 through October 31st, so her share is not quite half what she raised since announcing her candidacy June 6th.

Where does the money come from?

The Austin Fair Campaign Finance Fund is built through lobbyist registration fees, donations, money collected from violations of campaign contracts, and candidate filing fees. As the Bulldog reported September 7th, 27 candidates paid $500 filing fees to get on the ballot in this election cycle. That added $13,500 to the fund.

All candidates who signed a Campaign Contract, complied with the rules, and made it into a runoff would qualify for an equal share of the money to finance their campaigns for the December 13th runoff election.

To qualify the candidates had to sign a Voluntary Campaign Contract to limit contributions and expenditures, and participate in candidate forums conducted by the City’s Ethics Review Commission.

To be eligible candidates also must not have announced their candidacy more than 30 days before signing the contract. A candidacy could be established by appointing a campaign treasurer or be announced through news articles or social media postings.

City Code Section 2-2-11 requires that candidates must sign the Austin Fair Campaign Contract the earlier of 30 days after becoming a candidate under the Texas Election Code or the date the candidate files for a place on the ballot.

Not all signed, others didn’t sign in time

Twenty of the 34 candidates running in this election signed a Campaign Contract. Those were identified in the Bulldog’s report of September 7, 2022. (Click on the image to download the full spreadsheet. Timely signers are listed in black, disqualified signers are listed in red.)

Mayoral runoff—None of the six candidates running for mayor signed a Campaign Contract, so neither Celia Israel or Kirk Watson were eligible for a share of the funds.

Jose Velasquez

District 3 runoff—Silva’s runoff opponent Jose Velasquez did sign the Campaign Contract (Campaign Contracts are on page 2, behind the ballot application). But he did so more than 30 days after accepting his first campaign contribution. His campaign finance reports show he accepted contributions as early as January 11, 2022. He filed his Campaign Contract August 22, 2022.

Silva appointed a campaign treasurer March 4, 2022 and signed the Campaign Contract April 1, 2022. She accepted her first campaign contribution March 28th, was announced as a candidate in the Austin Monitor April 14th, and made her first campaign announcement on Facebook April 25th.

In addition, both Silva and Guerrero stayed well within the $75,000 expenditure limit for a council candidate who signed the contract. Through the final pre-election campaign finance reports filed October 31st, Silva’s total expenditures were $15,216. Guerrero’s were $55,033.

There are aggregate contribution limits of $44,000 from donors outside of Austin, but neither Silva nor Guerrero came close. They face a $30,000 limit on such contributions in the runoff.

District 5 runoff—Candidate Stephanie Bazan did not sign a contract. Her opponent, Ryan Alter, signed a Campaign Contract August 22nd. That’s more than 30 days after accepting his first campaign contributions March 18, 2022.

So neither Alter nor Bazan are eligible for funding.

Zohaib “Zo” Qadri

District 9 runoff—Guerrero’s runoff opponent Zohaib “Zo” Qadri signed a Campaign Contract August 19, 2022, more than nine months after accepting his first campaign contributions November 12, 2021. Thus he is not eligible to receive runoff funds.

Guerrero appointed a campaign treasurer June 6th and signed a Campaign Contract June 24th. The Austin Monitor announced her candidacy June 7th, she accepted her first campaign contributions June 8th, and made her first Facebook post as a candidate June 21st.

No runoffs in D1 and D8—Neither of the incumbents running for reelection, Natasha Harper-Madison and Paige Ellis, signed a Campaign Contract, but both won reelection without needing a runoff.

Fund management accurate this year?

City Clerk Rios and the Law Department advisors she relied upon to weed out ineligible candidates should be recognized for not repeating the mistakes made in some previous election cycles—if in fact they conclude that only Guerrero and Silva will receive payments.

For example in 2014 the Bulldog reported that two of the three runoff candidates who received equal shares of the $83,965.74 in the Fair Campaign Fund should not have gotten that money.

District 3 siblings and opponents Susana Almanza and Sabino “Pio” Renteria each got $27,988.58, as did District 7 candidate Leslie Pool. In reality all the money should have gone to Pool, as the story detailed.

The reasoning behind the requirement to sign the Austin Fair Campaign Contract within 30 days of becoming a candidate is to prevent gaming the system

A candidate who waits to sign the Austin Fair Campaign Contract until after at least one opponent does not do so would then be able to publish the required disclosure of compliance per City Code Section 2-2-14, exceed the required contribution and expenditure limits, and, if in a runoff, be eligible to receive Fair Campaign Funds.

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Photo of Ken MartinTrust indicators: Ken Martin has been doing investigative reporting in the three-county Austin metro area since 1981. His aggressive reporting twice garnered first-place national awards for investigative reporting. Both of those projects resulted in successful criminal prosecutions. His 2011 investigation of the Austin City Council’s open meetings violations triggered a 20-month investigation by the Travis County attorney that resulted in the mayor and council members signing deferred prosecution agreements to avoid being charged, tried, and if convicted serving one to six months in jail and forfeiting their elective offices. See more on Ken on the About page. Email [email protected].

Related documents:

Ryan Joseph Alter’s Application for a Place on the Ballot filed August 22, 2022, and Candidate Contract filed the same date (9 pages)

Linda Guerrero’s Application for a Place on the Ballot filed August 19, 2022, and Candidate Contract filed June 24, 2022 (9 pages)

Zohaib Ahmad Qadri’s Application for a Place on the Ballot filed August 19, 2022, and Candidate Contract filed the same date (9 pages)

Daniela Silva’s Application for a Place on the Ballot filed August 22, 2022, and Candidate Contract filed April 1, 2022 (9 pages)

Jose Velasquez’s Application for a Place on the Ballot filed August 22, 2022, and Candidate Contract filed the same date (9 pages)

Related Bulldog coverage:

Mayoral race and three council contests will go to runoffs, November 9, 2022

Watson grabbed 70 percent of mayoral donations, November 3, 2022

Watson circumvented law to fund new medical school, November 1, 2022

What kind of legislator was Celia Israel? October 28, 2022

What kind of mayor was Watson? October 24, 2022

Candidates offer competing visions on homelessness, October 18, 2022

2022 candidates have raised $3 million-plus, October 14, 2022

The man who would be mayor…again, October 10, 2022

Want to get elected but not be accountable? September 28, 2022

Mayor and council candidates rake up $2.3 million, September 7, 2022

Urbanists vie to replace council member Kathie Tovo, August 30, 2022

Let the mayor and council campaigns begin, August 22, 2022

Fair Campaign funds allocated unfairly, December 1, 2014

2 COMMENTS

  1. The title of the article, though technically accurate, gives the impression of something unethical occurred with respect to Silva and Guerrero. The caption under their photos would have been a better title. Perhaps it was the use of bonuses. It was a good article and I was unaware of the fund. I do applaud the reporter’s efforts in getting the story.

  2. Rachel thanks for your interest in The Austin Bulldog and providing feedback. That said, I can’t see anything unethical in the words “earn $33,000 runoff bonuses.” How can what is earned be unethical?

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