The problem with 11 Texas legislature candidates under-reporting campaign contributions

Luke Macias has a problem.

In what appears to be orchestrated under-reporting campaign contributions across several state races, one political consultant– Luke Macias of Macias Strategies– has 11 Texas Legislature candidates who under-reported PAC money received from Empower Texans or Texas Right to Life or New Leadership over the duration of 30-day and 8-day campaign finance report periods.

The 11 candidates are:

  • Matt Beebe, challenger for a House seat in northeast San Antonio
  • Kyle Biedermann, a incumbent in the Hill Country west of Austin
  • Jonathan Boos, vying for an open House seat east of Dallas
  • Drew Brassfield, challenger for a House seat in the central Panhandle
  • Chris Evans, challenger for a House seat in Central Texas, between Abilene and Waco
  • State Senator Bob Hall, an incumbent east of Dallas who still hasn’t resolved electromagnetic pulse crisis he ran on in 2014
  • Brandon Hall, challenger for a House seat in and east of Killeen
  • Jason Huddleston, challenger for a House seat that stair steps down from the northeastern Panhandle down west of Lubbock
  • Deanna Metzger, running for a House seat east of Dallas
  • Armin Mizani, challenger for a House seat between of Fort Worth/Arlington and Lewisville
  • Bryan Slaton, challenger for a House seat between Dallas and Tyler

A couple of instances of reporting errors by campaigns with the same consultant might be understandable. But 11 stinks to high Big Bend.

While each of the candidates failed to report contributions from a PAC, all of the candidates reported paying Macias Strategies, see the Texas Ethics Commission data here. (And, for fun, see the Wish List mailing service here.)

Readers cross-referencing with candidate reports may also note under-reporting in the Texas Right to Life  and Empower Texans PACs. Such as with, to cite one example, Empower reporting $10,ooo than was reported by Chris Fails, challenger for a House seat in San Antonio, in the 30-day reports. Keeping up with all this money in general is daunting, but folks like Chris Tackett are doing a fine job of it. So is whoever is behind WhoOwnsTexas.com.

The candidates also have a problem.

Whether all candidates have corrected failures to disclose contributions is presently unclear. What is clear, however, is that candidates will likely face a fine, according to Texas Ethics Commission General Counsel Ian Steusloff in a Feb. 17 Quorum Report story about 30-day under-reporting.

Per state law, failure to report could also be punishable as a Class A misdemeanor, according to Austin attorney Steve Bresnen, who’s had plenty of experience battling for campaign contribution transparency before the Texas Ethics Commission.

As I’ve written previously, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton seems to be awfully concerned about public school officials committing Class A misdemeanors by endorsing candidates. But Paxton doesn’t seem concerned at all about the possibility of candidates themselves committing the same offense.

But voters have the biggest problem.

The purpose of contribution disclosure is to help maintain democratic integrity by allowing the public to plainly see (if one deems the TEC website as plain) what forces and interests are funding a given candidate. And in what seems to be systematic effort to hide or confuse contributions, local democracies suffer most. Folks in the district don’t know what interests, and the degree to which these interests, are involved in an electing their future representation in Austin. For instance: folks in rural Perryton deserve to know how much Huddleston has received from Stacy Hock, an Austin philanthropist and ardent supporter of school vouchers, via New Leadership. And Catholic Republican voters in HD 107 deserve to know how much Texas Right to Life, an organization from which the Texas Council of Catholic Bishops recently urged parishes to disassociate, has contributed to Metzger.

Macias is widely believed to be a small-time operative for big-time interests. He’s no stranger to controversy and scorched earth politics, and he understands enforcing current state ethics laws is as difficult as putting socks on a rooster (or cross-referencing finance reports). For Macias, Lyndon Johnson’s quip “It’s not the job of politicians to go around saying principled things” seems to apply to going around filing accurate reports.

And for these candidates, a fine is just the cost of doing the shady kind of business in which they’re currently involved.

But it’s voters who stand to lose the most in all of this. Because they could lose a representative– to under-reported interests.

 

 

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