Yeah, I know, another post about the 2015 election. I sure am doing a lousy job of not thinking about that just yet, but this raises an interesting point.
Likely mayoral candidate Chris Bell is asking the city of Houston to reconsider its interpretation of an ordinance that would give Sylvester Turner a major fundraising advantage when he runs for mayor next year.
Bell’s law partner, Geoff Berg, sent City Attorney David Feldman a letter last week arguing that Turner and potential candidate Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia should not be able to raise money for their officeholder accounts and then transfer most of the funds to their mayoral accounts at the start of the race. As detailed in the Chronicle last month, Turner has raised money for his unopposed state legislative race this fall and has plans to eventually transfer the first $5,000 of each donation this winter. That is the limit for individual donations in a city election.
Feldman has signed off on Turner’s plan, but many campaign finance experts do not share his interpretation, instead arguing that candidates should merely be able to make a single $10,000 donation to the mayoral bid from their officeholder account. That is how much an entity like a PAC is allowed to donate under the city’s ordinance.
Bell, like other potential candidates who do not hold non-city offices, is prohibited from raising any money for a mayor’s race until Feb. 1. Berg argues in his letter that this unequal footing is ultimately unfair.
“The Ordinance simply cannot reasonably be read to mean anything other than what it says: the maximum amount which may be transferred from non-city campaign accounts is $10,000,” Berg wrote. “The blackout period was not intended to be a fundraising bonanza for officeholders at the expense of citizens who may wish to get involved in public service.”
The letter from Berg is at the link above. It should be noted that one reason Turner is raising money now is because come January, when the Legislature is in session, he’ll be restricted from doing so by the rules of that body. At least, he’ll be barred from raising money for his State Rep account; I’m actually not sure what the rules would be for him to raise money for a different campaign. It’s probably a can of worms he doesn’t want to have to deal with. Be that as it may, I tend to agree with Texpatriate that a better solution might be to let Bell and the teeming mob of other Mayoral wannabes do their own fundraising now as well. If nothing else, it would help sort out the real candidates from the candidates-only-in-speculative-articles-about-potential-candidates pretty quickly. That would require Council to revisit its 2005 campaign finance reform ordinance, which I feel quite confident saying ain’t gonna happen. I don’t see a compromise that’s likely to be satisfactory to all parties here, so I suspect this issue is going to be decided by a judge. Isn’t that always a great way to kick off a campaign season? Campos has more.