We are now less than a month out from Election Day, and that means it’s time for 30 day campaign finance reports, which give a decent picture of where campaigns are now, and may be the best way of understanding where the late entrants to campaigns are. As before, given the sheer number of people running for office in Houston, I will break these up into a series of posts, starting with the Mayoral candidates. July reports for this group are here. More will be to come shortly.
Candidate Raised Spent Loan On Hand
Whitmire 1,092,518 3,924,144 0 6,876,948
JacksonLee 630,518 756,621 0 901,824
Kaplan 465,180 177,578 200,000 1,164,527
G Garcia 277,911 1,630,800 0 1,542,929
Khan 46,002 92,115 98,450 162,304
A Garcia 16,185 2,204 1,519,000 3,599
Gallegos 11,450 16,607 0 145,075
Christie 8,420 121,528 214,875 109,567
Houjami 1,988 1,372 0 616
Mbala 1,220 1,411 0 119
Williams 300,027 0 0 300,027
As before, you can find all of the reports that I downloaded in this Google Drive folder. You can find all of the candidates in the Erik Manning spreadsheet; Erik Manning is the shining star around which my campaign coverage revolves and I thank him as always for putting this together so I don’t have to.
My commentary, in the order of the reports that I downloaded and reviewed:
MJ Khan reclassified his $85K loan from the July report as an in-kind donation, which is something I have not seen done before. I’m honestly not sure how that works, but my interpretation is either that this should now be a contribution to himself, or if the intent is still to pay it back that the “outstanding loan” total should be increased accordingly. It’s money, so it sure isn’t “in kind”, that much I know. Some of that new tranche of loans is from himself, which is often how these things go, but the largest piece of it is $65K from Wallis State Bank borrowed at 13% (!!!) interest. Self-loans, in my experience, tend to not get paid back. This one I suspect will be, and may I just say “ouch”.
Yes, Robin Williams lists $300,027 in contributions, with no expenditures. His Subtotals page is blank and he did not include any documentation of individual donations. This is after he late-filed a July report that claimed $33,965 raised, again with no expenditures and the same total on hand. Hilariously, he filed a corrected report for the 30 day that was also essentially blank – it never said what was being corrected. Man, I love that just any-damn-body can run for Mayor in this town. Be that as it may, this is my response to Mr. Williams.
Annie Garcia qualified for that Tuesday debate by taking in contributions from at least 400 people. A quick look at her report shows that many of those contributions were of $1 – there were others for $2, $5, $6, $10 and some other odd amounts. Many of those contributions were not from Houston, and many came from multiple people with the same surname and address. I understand why a debate sponsor would want to impose some conditions on candidates before allowing their participation, to weed out the fringe types, and I approve of the concept. But if it can be gamed this easily, you need to put more thought into what those conditions are and what they might incentivize. As for that mind-boggling loan, it came from herself. I have to assume we’re going to start seeing some TV ads, because otherwise what was the point? I note that some candidates, such as MJ Khan and Jack Christie, appear to include loan amounts when they calculate their cash on hand, while Garcia did not. I am not clear on what the rule is here, but I think Garcia has it right.
Jack Christie loaned himself the $214K in four separate transactions, the first three (for $1K, $13K, and $100K) within a week in August, then the last one (for $100K) in early September. I presume there was a reason for doing it that way, I just don’t see any obvious reason for it.
Gilbert Garcia listed his cumulative totals on the coversheet, which is not how you’re supposed to do it. You’re supposed to just list the amount you collected and spent in the specified reporting period. He did give those numbers on the Subtotals page, and those are what I show above. As was the case with the July report, the vast majority of the amount he raised came from himself – $250K in cash and another $7,547 in in-kind contributions. Those included $5K from his law firm for office space and a bunch of smaller items attributed to himself for things like “food for campaign event” and Uber rides. The former is a normal example of an in-kind contribution – essentially, a donation of goods or services, with a cash equivalent listed for the value – but the latter I believe should have been classified as “political expenditures made from personal funds”. Not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but this makes me once again renew my call for the software for these reports to have data validation and error-checking in it, so that we can avoid some of these often simple and/or dumb mistakes.
Lee Kaplan continues to be a strong fundraiser for reasons that continue to elude me. The vast majority of his finance report, like literally pages 240 through 709, are all expenditures mostly in the $8 to $40 range for “Fees” to an outfit in Baton Rouge called Anedot, which is an online giving processor. I will say once again, I’ve never seen anything quite like this. He then has some more normal items like office space and consulting fees, which amounted to about $80K to Slingshot Strategies from Atlanta. I assume at some point he will spend a few bucks on, like, advertising? You know, to maybe get his name recognition into double digits? Just a thought.
One candidate who has done a lot of advertising is John Whitmire – over $2.7 million in ad expenses, at a rough count. A lot of that is for Facebook/Instagram and other online ads – Lord knows, I can’t escape Whitmire ads wherever I go on the Internet these days. He also has something I’ve not seen before in a finance report, and that’s that’s a Schedule K filing, which is “Interest, Credits, Gains, Refunds, and Contributions Returned to Filers”. What this is in real life is his account selling a bunch of stock – you didn’t think the $10 million he had on hand all these years was just cash sitting in a bank, did you? – and presumably using those funds to make a ton of commissions for ad buyers. He had stock in Microsoft, IBM, Walmart, Apple, Waste Management, Amazon, Enterprise Products, Avnet, and more. Oh, he also spent $18K or so on Anedot fees, though he mercifully listed all that as one item. My wrists thank his team for not making me scroll through an additional 500 pages.
After all this, Sheila Jackson Lee had a comfortingly boring report. Just the basics, donations in and expenditures out. She spent about $200K on ads, with most of it being online (about $150K), with $40K for cable. I’ve seen some web ads for her, such as one of her attack ads against Whitmire (including a Spanish-language ad, whose captions were easy enough to get the main idea from), but unlike Whitmire and his presence during sporting events, nothing I have seen on TV yet.
And finally, Robert Gallegos…yeah, that’s not gonna cut it. He’s a better and more qualified candidate than his fundraising would imply, but here we are. It is what it is.