Poll Triggers Backlash from 10-1 Proponents

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Bruce Todd

Proposition 3 advocates say Prop 4 playing dirty with a misleading poll, Prop 4 denies the charge

Proposition 3 backers of the 10-1 plan for electing council members issued a press release today claiming that Proposition 4 supporters of the 8-2-1 plan used “Karl Rove dirty tricks” with a “push poll” that mischaracterized the sources of the group’s funding.

Proposition 4 proponents say an automated poll was conducted but it was not a push poll.

“A push poll is an interactive marketing technique, most commonly employed during political campaigning, in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll,” according to Wikipedia. “In a push poll, large numbers of respondents are contacted, and little or no effort is made to collect and analyze response data. Instead, the push poll is a form of telemarketing-based propaganda and rumor mongering, masquerading as a poll.”

Bruce Todd
Bruce Todd

The Austinites for Geographic Representation (AGR) press release quoted Bruce Todd of Bruce Todd Public Affairs, who was mayor of Austin from 1991-1997,  saying, “Not only are the Prop 4 proponents engaging in dirty political tactics by using a push poll, they are funding it with money that came in after the 30 day out reporting period. Prop 3 is supported by the largest, most diverse grassroots coalition in Austin’s history. Prop 3’s support includes the NAACP, LULAC Districts 7 and 12, South Austin Democrats, Travis County Green Party, Austin Central Labor Council–Texas AFL-CIO, Austin Tejano Democrats, and, yes, Republicans. Our breadth proves all of Austin wants Prop 3.”

It should be noted there would be nothing improper about using funds raised by Austin Community for Change (AC4C) after the September 27 reporting deadline for any legitimate political purpose.

AC4C reported raising $2,685 in the three months ending September 27 and a total of $4,592 since it began fundraising June 1. AGR had raised nearly $90,000 with four weeks left till the November 6 election. AGR’s largest contributors were the Homebuilders Association of Greater Austin and environmentalist Kirk Mitchell.(Disclosure: Mitchell is The Austin Bulldog’s largest donor.)

Facebook comment triggered reaction
AGR’s press release was based on information supplied by a supporter who posted a comment on AGR’s Facebook page.
Gordon Fossum posted the comment at 6:41pm Tuesday saying that he received a “computer-voice ‘poll’ asking questions about Propositions 3 and 4.

“It felt like a push poll because one of the pieces of ‘information’ they shared is that Prop 3 is financially backed mostly by Republicans and Tea Party PACs,” Fossum wrote.

Stacy Suits
Stacy Suits

AGR treasurer Stacy Suits said in the release, “We received no Tea Party funding. Our filling shows the push poll’s accusation is a lie.”

The Austin Bulldog was unable to locate Fossum for an interview. He has not responded to a Facebook comment asking him to call.

Richard Jung
Richard Jung

Attorney Richard Jung of Jung Ko PLLC is treasurer of Austin Community for Change. He told The Austin Bulldog, “We’re not running any polls right now that I know of.”

“AGR is accusing us of running a poll and pushing negative information about Prop 3 and we’re not doing that,” Jung said.

AC4C did conduct a poll

David Butts
David Butts

Veteran political consultant David Butts, who has been advising AC4C as a volunteer backing the 8-2-1campaign, said the organization did commission an automated poll but it was not a push poll and it provided no negative information about Proposition 3.

“We did a poll,” Butts told The Austin Bulldog. “Their definition of a push poll is something I’d argue with. … This is probably indicative of the level of paranoia running over there. They don’t know what they’re talking about.

“I asked negative questions about Proposition 4, too,” Butts said of the poll. “It’s a chance to get a sense of what people are picking up, how they’re reacting, so that I and others involved in Prop 4 know what to do. It’s a standard polling technique.”

“This will give us a handle on how we spend however much money we have and what actions we take in the closing weeks of the campaign,” Butts said.

So, did the poll allege that AGR is funded by a Tea Party political action committee?

“We never said Tea Party PAC” (in the poll), Butts said. “We said an individual who founded and was leader of a PAC that supports Tea Party candidates, gave them (Proposition 3) $10,000.”

Which is true.

AGR got no Tea Party donations

John Ramsey
John Ramsey

As The Austin Bulldog reported October 9, John Ramsey, who founded the Liberty For All Super PAC, donated $10,000 to AGR. According to OpenSecrets.org, the Liberty for All Super PAC spent $1,722,904 in independent expenditures for the 2012 election cycle, of which $797,754 supported Republican candidates, and $925,150 opposed Republican candidates.

According to AGR’s latest campaign finance report, Ramsey personally donated $10,000 to the Proposition 3 campaign—not his Liberty for All Super PAC.

But it is true that Ramsey’s Super PAC supported candidates endorsed by the Tea Party.

The Liberty for All Super PAC spent $629,201 in independent expenditures in support of Thomas Massie, a congressional candidate from Kentucky. Massie’s campaign website indicates that he was endorsed by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, the Louisville Tea Party, and several other conservative organizations.

The Liberty For All Super PAC also spent $164,303 in independent expenditures to support congressional candidate Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan. Bentivolio’s campaign website indicates he has been endorsed by a long list of Michigan elected officials from the governor on down, as well as by the Tea Party Express, Troy Area Tea Party, Tea Party Patriots of Western Wayne County, and other conservative groups.

Todd said in the press release, “Prop 3 isn’t about political affiliation. It’s about representation, fair representation for all Austinites. As Austinites, do we want to stick with old-game politics like the push poll tactics that Prop 4 is using, or do we want to bring a new, more inclusive, vision to (the) Austin City Council? The choice is clear. I recommend you vote yes on Prop 3 and no on Prop 4. It’s time to change our current city council system and we will do it this year at the polls.

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 to sustainThe Austin Bulldog’s coverage by making a tax-deductible contribution.

Related Bulldog coverage: This is The Austin Bulldog’s 33rd article covering issues and activities pertaining to proposed changes to the Austin City Charter.

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Proposition 3 Rally Draws 150-200 People: Crowd hears fiery speeches by proponents of the 10-1 systemfor electing council members, October 8, 2012

Attorney Bickerstaff Addresses Critics’ Concerns: His September 24 article drew numerous comments about the Proposition 3 Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, October 5, 2012

Feisty Debate Over Electing Council Members: One panelist argues for no change to the at-large system of City Council elections, October 4, 2012

Proposition 3 and 4 Proponents Rev Their Campaigns: Raising money, organizing troops, and pushing plans for geographic representation on Austin City Council, September 28, 2012

Redistricting Need Not Be a Quintessentially Political Process: Independent redistricting commissions for U.S. states and cities, September 24, 2012

Barrientos Lampoons Prop 4 With a Fable: Other proponents of alternative plans for geographic representation push their points, September 14, 2012

Proposition 3 Advocates Falsely Accuse RECA: Group alleges ‘rumor’ of $100,000 pledge by Real Estate Council to defeat Proposition 3, but RECA says not so, September 12, 2012

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Hard Fought, Heartfelt Charter Decision: Charter Revision Committee Votes 8-7 to Back 10-1 Plan for Council Elections, February 3, 2012

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