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More campaign finance reports for July

Following up on the earlier post, here are some more highlights from the July campaign finance reports for City of Houston elections. All reports can be found on my 2011 Election page.

– Since I dinged Al Hoang for not filing a January report, I will state up front that his July report is on time and looks to be correct at first glance. He had a habit in 2009 of entering some expenditures as in-kind donations, and his subsequent filings were done as cumulative reports instead of just for that period, which made his totals look inflated. I don’t see any of that here, so kudos to him. If I want to be super nitpicky, I’ll note that unlike his 2009 reports, which listed many dozens of small-dollar contributions from citizens, many from the Vietnamese community, this report mostly has entries from the usual suspects – PACs, law firms, whatnot. Which is to say, it looks a lot like the reports of other incumbent Council members.

– Speaking of which, here are the contribution and expenditure totals for all Council incumbents:

Incumbent Dist Contribs Expends Cash Loan ================================================== Costello AL1 162,124 77,984 91,857 15,000 Noriega AL3 74,965 40,807 35,774 11,000 Bradford AL4 56,376 4,273 44,120 0 Jones AL5 113,586 30,046 85,166 0 Stardig A 52,315 17,220 56,499 0 Adams D 82,105 16,077 67,620 0 Sullivan E 88,355 34,186 67,132 15,000 Hoang F 16,900 14,707 22,980 0 Pennington G 194,157 56,109 202,249 0 Gonzalez H 69,134 24,741 60,712 0 Rodriguez I 44,840 47,517 42,424 0

Both CMs Pennington and Costello were big fundraisers last time, so while their totals are quite impressive, it’s not as surprising as it would be from someone else. Like Hoang, CM Bradford also had the habit last time of listing some odd things as in-kind donations. There’s still some of that this time around – for instance, a $2,000 donation by himself for “Use of Personal Vehicle/Gas for Campaign Purposes”, and $3,000 from Wendy Richard for “Campaign Consulting Services”, which is something you’d normally expect to see as an expenditure – but there seems to be less of it, and more traditional giving, this time.

– Speaking of big fundraisers, Mayor Annise Parker clocks in with $2,231,691 raised and $2,340,034 on hand. Good luck to anyone who might be thinking about a late challenge to her.

– City Controller Ronald Green, who was easily the third-best fundraiser in that race in 2009, had a respectable showing with $94,913 raised and $53,181 on hand. Given that he has no opponent, and that he (probably) has till 2015 to build up a warchest if he intends to follow the Annise Parker career path, it’s a start. Let’s see what he reports next January.

– Among non-incumbents, the report that jumps out at you is that of Ellen Cohen, who raised a mind-boggling $234,814 for the period. She regularly raised scads of money for her State Rep campaigns, and many of the same donors are supporting her again, so this too isn’t a surprise, but it is an eye-opener. I don’t know what the record is for a district race, but she could challenge it.

– Cohen’s competitors in District C were much more subdued. Karen Derr, who lost in a runoff for At Large #1 last time, had an oddly empty report, showing $950 raised and no expenditures. She sent me a preview of an email to her supporters about this, which you can see here; basically, she says she is making a deliberate choice to “win this race with fewer dollars and more grassroots support”. I have no opinion at this time of the merits of this strategy, but the contrast it helps create for her is undeniable. Joshua Verde raised $5,882 and has a bit less than half of that on hand. Brian Cweren raised a superficially impressive $51,485 to come closest to Cohen. I say “superficially” impressive because almost $45,000 of that total came from…Brian Cweren himself. No point calling it a loan if you’re not going to pay it back. This is the flip side to the Eric Dick approach, who is paying as he goes.

– Another candidate whose report looks bigger than it is is Louis Molnar, who is challenging CM Bradford in At Large #4. Molnar reported taking in $45,040, but nearly all of that is in kind, for things like rent, clerical support, and in what may be the most ominous thing I’ve seen on a report so far, $5000 from a “singer/songwriter” with Universal Music for “entertainment”. I am gripped by an abiding fear that a campaign song is in the works. Anyway, as this is another example of many things that would be subsequently classified as expenses being shown as in-kind donations, Molnar reported only $2,625 on hand despite a paltry $643 in listed expenditures.

– Elsewhere in open seat reports, Larry Green in K leads the way with $40,060 raised and $31,804 on hand. All three known candidates in J have reported: Criselda Romero raised $5,220 and has $4,419 on hand; Mike Laster, who lost in a runoff in F in 2009, raised $5,100 but thanks to a balance carried over from that race of $7,224 on his January report, he has $12,259 on hand; Rodrigo Canedo reported no money raised or spent, and his form was signed by someone named “David Merkel”, which makes me suspect an error somewhere.

– There are many District B hopefuls out there, but only three of them have filed so far, Phillip Bryant raised $15,309, a fair bit of which was in-kind, leaving $3,554 on hand; and Kathy Daniels raised $3,874 and loaned herself $4,700 but has less than $1,000 on hand; Jerry Davis raised $8,585 and retains $6,804.

– Most of the At Large #2 hopefuls have now filed: Jenifer Pool raised $30,492 and has $15,058 on hand; Elizabeth Perez raised $1,505, loaned herself $3,683, and has $1,687 on hand; Bolivar Fraga raised $27,284 and has $14,988 on hand; Kristi Thibaut raised $31,124, loaned herself $5,000, and has $30,921 on hand; and David Robinson led the field with $61,112 raised. His form does not list cash on hand, however – he claimed $6,969 in expenditures – so I expect there will be a correction. I’ll upload that when I see it.

– Finally, the other two challengers to CM Jolanda Jones have now filed, but neither did anything notable. Robert Ryan reported no money raised or spent; Jack O’Connor raised less than $400. Chris Carmona in At Large #3 has filed a second report, which no longer shows a contribution from Eric Dick but otherwise appears to be the same. He didn’t file a “correction” report, so I’m just guessing about the differences between the two.

– The most prominent candidates to not post reports as yet are Michael Williams and Griff Griffin in At Large #2, Bryan Smart in B, Randy Locke in C, and Otis Jordan in K. As always, I will update the 2011 Election page as I see more reports come in.

Anyway. To see all of this in a simple chart, see this document that was put together by my friend Erik Vidor. While I’ve taken a passing glance at many of these reports, it still remains to do a more detailed inspection and see what crops up. The 30-day and 8-day reports are likely to be the most informative about what campaigns are actually doing with their money, but I’m sure there will be points of interest in this heap of data. Noel Freeman got a head start on that by looking for food-related expenses. Take a look for yourself and see what you see.

UPDATE: I have been told by the David Robinson campaign that cash on hand should have been reported as $53,095.57, and that the correction affadavit and finance form update have been filed with the city. I’ll upload the corrected form when I see it.

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One Comment

  1. really helpful information. I imagine it took a lot of work. I actually spent a couple of hours scanning most of the 800 pages of Parker’s report until I started getting dizzy. Lots of “smalls” in the $5-200 range which is good. Shows the little guy wants to pitch in. I think this really shows the advantages incumbents have.

    There was a fair amount of $5k ballpark donations mostly from engineers and architects, lawyers, community big wigs etc., and taking a look at the heavy hitters, the $10k club, I found;

    Lockwood Andrews & newman PAC (engineering firm)
    Vinson & Elkins PAC (Law firm)
    Andrews & Kurth Texas PAC (Law Firm)
    CH2M Hill Texas PAC ( engineer-procure-construction)
    Cobb Fendley PAC (Engineering firm)
    Houston Associate General Contractors PAC
    Houston Contractors PAC
    Roman Martinez (of Austin)
    Bracewell & Guilliani (Law Firm)
    Annie’s List PAC (Democratic Women’s PAC)
    Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund
    TREPAC Realtors (Texas Real Estate Agents)
    Plumbers Union