Report: Group opposing expo funded almost entirely by outside money

Lubbock Taxpayers for Accountability has received a total of $18,600 in contributions and loans, according to a campaign finance documents filed on Monday.

However, $16,900 of that total came from New Mexico and Austin.

Lubbock Taxpayers for Accountability (LTFA), a Hub City-based political action committee organized to oppose a county expo center ballot proposition, reported the following: 

  • A $10,000 loan from Strata Production Company, an energy group located in Roswell, NM. 
  • A $1,700 in-kind contribution from Lubbock’s Charles “CJ” Hargrove, presumably to cover the campaign’s $1,700 yards sign.
  • An in-kind contribution comes from Mesa Media in Austin for radio and television production. While no amount for Mesa is specified in the document, a county election office official says the contribution amounts to the remaining $6,900.

Most of LTFA’s political expenditures were for advertising; see entire report below.

Other documents show Hargrove filed as the PAC’s treasurer on October 19, and appointed Tony Renteria to the same position six days later on October 25.

Hargrove, the nephew of former Lubbock state Rep. Carl Isett, is said to have stepped down out of concerns about the campaign’s tactics. Renteria, who is very involved in the Lubbock County Republican Party, is said to have been a longtime campaign volunteer for Isett, who held state office from 1997 to 2010.

In a Sunday night phone conversation, Isett told me that he had no involvement with the PAC, and that had no knowledge of who was running it. Isett added that he intended to make a contribution.

Renteria and Hargrove did not respond to request for comment by the time of publish.

Other Side of Texas followers will recall questions raised two weeks ago about a federal law signed into law on October 5 that prohibits taxation of rental car agencies located at or permitted by airports that receive federal funds. According to Lubbock County ballot language, which was submitted in mid-August, a tax of up to 2 percent on hotel occupancy and 5 percent on rental cars is being sought to fund the expo proposition. 

Lubbock County Expo Center PAC officials have since pointed to independent projections to argue that current hotel occupancy taxes would overcome any shortfall in rental car revenues. Moreover, they say 800 more rooms will be are soon coming online in the city to further help fund the $40-$50 million project; Lubbock had 5,392 rooms as of December 2016, according to a 2016 Texas Performance Factbook report. (Listen to an extended OSTX interview with expo steering committee member Tim Collins, beginning at the 12:30 mark.)

Prompted by questions I raised on Friday about who was running LTFA— given sourcing that Hargrove had stepped away from the campaign— Renteria chimed in on a Friday evening social media post and announced himself as treasurer. 

A week away from Election Day, the expo proposition is shaping up to be a campaign in which two PACs might be seen as candidates.

Officials from the pro-expo group have answered difficult, albeit unexpected, questions derived from Washington. 

The opposing PAC, which claims to be “For Accountability,” should answer questions about the group’s finances— and how 90 percent of its contributions derive from far outside Lubbock County.

 

[LTFA’s full campaign finance report can be viewed here.]

 

Jay Leeson is the founder of Other Side of Texas. You can hear the radio program by the same name each weekday 5-6pm CST on AM 580 Lubbock, streaming OtherSideofTexas.com. Each episode is posted as a podcast, subscribe at Apple podcasts.

 

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