Campaign Fun-ance

Mid-year campaign-finance reports for elected officials (and aspirants) were due on July 15, and thanks to convenience-minded engineers in our governments’ IT departments, tens and tens of thousands of pages of political goodness are available online for you to peruse:






You can scroll through the PDFs to see what local magnates and special interests are supporting your politicians, or, if you’re bean-countingly inclined, get out your TI-85 and start crunching. Texas politicians cheat? Never!


Here’s a few sordid details we discovered on our first pass:

If you’re ever considering applying for a legislative aide job, find yourself an employer like Representative Robert Puente. For all the sinister real-estate dealings the Express-News has uncovered, you can say one thing about San Antonio’s shadiest House Democrat: He takes care of his own. According to his campaign-finance reports, Puente dished out bonuses all around to his aides, including a $5,000 pat-on-the-back for Natural Resources Committee clerk Hope Wells. (Note to Hope: Buy a gift for sad little House Speaker Tom Craddick, who appointed Puente as chair of the committee. What do you get a man who’s got $3.8 million in his war chest? I don’t know. A soul?)


Trial lawyer Mikal Watts has been bragging that in the first month of his campaign to challenge Texas’s junior U.S. Senator John Cornyn he’s raised about $1.1 million in political capital. But, as Current contributor Vince Leibowitz points out on his blog,, Watts’s FEC filings show the bulk of his contributions were larger than $1,000, and the vast majority of his monetary supporters are trial lawyers and more often than not based in Corpus Christi. Leibowitz, who’s answered the blogosphere’s clarion call to support State Representative Rick Noriega (who’s got a mere $42,000 in the bank) found something particularly noteworthy in Watts’s report: The candidate paid $2,000 in moving expenses and $2,000 in payroll to Sherry Boyles, former CEO of pro-choice organization Annie’s List, which is “quite interesting given Watts’ highly criticized position on a woman’s right to choose.”


If you were wondering about the extent of City Councilmember Mary Alice Cisneros’s fundraising overkill to conquer District 1, the numbers are finally in: Cisneros spent $91,023 to win 3,454 votes, while her challenger kat swift spent $3,390 for 1,630 votes. According to our calculations that’s a difference between $26.35 and $2.41 per vote.


Now that DeLay crony Henry Bonilla has been ousted from Congress, his campaign-finance report shows him closing out his service contracts — cell phone, campaign software, staff. We can’t help but wonder how he plans to spend his leftover $159,000. Well, there’s not much he can do but return some of it, and throw the rest behind other GOP candidates. Already presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and Senator Trent Lott have benefitted from Bonilla’s defeat, picking up $2,000 each.


If we’re looking at failed candidates, we can’t ignore Kinky Friedman, Texas’s most financially innovative gubernatorial candidate. You’ll remember that Friedman raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through his online store, which peddled T-shirts, beer koozies, and a talking Kinky doll, only to come in fourth in the crowded race. The core of Kinky’s campaign machinery is still in motion, though now he’s applying the profits from his name and products to his favorite charity, the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch in Medina, Texas. Friedman’s reports show a $20,000 contribution to the shelter, followed by a $110,000 loan forgiveness from his friend, treasurer, and shampoo millionaire John McCall. 


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