Friday, September 15, 2006

Reclaiming Texas For Whom?

During the 2006 Election Cycle, a lot of money has been donated by Texas Democratic donors. Only a very small percentage of it has gone to Democratic Candidate's Campaigns!

Texans elected a slate of nominees during the primary. Activist on the grassroots are enthusiastic about them. However, some traditional large Democratic donors, while donating large sums to support the State Democratic Party, have not used their influence (nor much of their money) to further the election of Democrats in the State of Texas this November. The bulk of Democratic candidates’ funding is coming from many small donors and Labor PACS this year. There appears to be a “POPULIST” vs. “TRADITIONAL DONOR” Divide.

In our "Follow the Money Adventure" we have been tracking the largest donors to the Texas Democratic Party. The majority of the funding for the State Democratic Party in 2006 comes through The Texas Democratic Trust.

State reports spanning from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2005 show the Democratic Party actually outdid the Republican Party in fundraising.
But in federal accounts, the GOP garnered four times as much.

-- By CHRISTY HOPPE / The Dallas Morning News February 7, 2006

Most of the Democratic Party money – $107,000 of the $243,000 raised in its state account – came from the Texas Democratic Trust, a political committee funded by two trial lawyers, Fred Baron and Russell Budd.

"The Texas Democratic Trust is a group of Democrats who believe in their party and are tired of the cronyism and corruption that has infiltrated Texas under the regime of Tom DeLay and Rick Perry," said spokeswoman Amber Moon. "We appreciate every penny of it."

While many of the party's traditional large donors have defected to the independent gubernatorial campaign of Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Ms. Moon said she still expects that the party will raise enough contributions to be a force in the upcoming elections.

"We're confident we'll have enough money to support all our candidates," she said.

Texas Ethics Campaign Reports shows:
Dallas attorney Fred Baron personally gave $655,000.00 to the Texas Democratic Trust during the first half of 2006. His personal contributions to PACS totaled $667,560.00 during that time frame. He gave an additional $7,000.00 directly to candidates. During the first half of 2006, Fred Baron and the Baron and Budd Lawfirm and his law partner Russell Budd and Dorothy Budd gave a total of $52,250.00 directly to candidates’ campaigns. (They have made additional donations since the last reporting period.) The majority of their political contributions has gone to PACS. Only a small percentage of those dollars have been channeled from those PACS into candidates’ campaign accounts.

They are the largest financial backers of the Texas Democratic Party. The number of Democrats supporting the TDP through Sustaining Membership has diminished in the past decade. Many of the grassroots activists who traditionally were sustaining members of the TDP have become so disgusted with the poor performance of the TDP that they discontinued paying annual Sustaining Memberships to the TDP. If it were not for contributions by Baron and Budd, the TDP probably would not have its doors open this year. Most of the state-wide down-ticket candidates report a lack of responsiveness of TDP staff or substantial assistance to candidates during this election cycle.

At the August SDEC Committee Meeting, it was reported that 'the Democratic Trust has decided to back only two House races this year' and 'to prepare to field a statewide slate and fund it in 2010.' Only one SDEC person complained. When gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell complained to Fred Baron after the last Texas SDEC meeting, I've been told that Fred Baron wrote Chris a check for $25,000.00 out of his personal account. That was after the last reporting period. (Fred Baron initially donated $20,000.00 in 2005 to Republican turned Independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn's campaign for Governor.) Despite large donations to PACS, Baron only gave $7,000.00 to candidates during the first half of this year.

The attitude of the backers of the Trust toward the party's nominees is mirrored by the TDP Staff. Following Hank Gilbert's strong endorsement by voters in the Primary (he recieved more votes than any candidate in a contested race during the primary), Hank was told by a TDP Staff Consultant that he "didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning (in November)!" Hank reports that "just makes me more determined to win!" The state wide candidates are campaigning vigorously to win this November. They are starved for cash to run media advertising. Most have spent the bulk of their campaign funds on gasoline and motel bills as they travel extensively to many of the counties which have been neglected by most other candidates during the previous twenty years. During the summer, several candidates spoke at TCC hearings most nights of the week, attracting many traditional Republican and Independent supporters without watering down their progressive/populist message. Observing the candidates fight to win this year despite little financial support from the Party's most powerful PACS widens the divide between activists and the staff of institutions such as the TDP which are sustained largely by donations from Mr. Baron and Mr. Budd and their associates. Hearing that the major PACS supported by Mr. Baron and Mr. Budd and their associates are banking their resources to "Rebuild for the Future" and to create infrastructure to "Reclaim Texas", brings forth the question:
"Wouldn't it be easier to rebuild with Democrats working from the inside as elected officials of the State of Texas?"

Many activist believe this year's slate is the most qualified, honorable group of candidates who have been assembled in any election cycle in many decades. It frustrates them to see the candidates discounted by many officials of the party and some in the main stream media. Electability is measured by many only in terms of the size of the campaign war chest. Yet Party Officials (and their major backers) appear to be devoting little energy in helping these candidates build their war chest! While the Party cannot fund campaigns, there is a sad lack of help from the party in connecting the candidates with potential donors or encouraging influential people to host fundraisers for the candidates. There has been a few fundraisers in Texas for out-of-state candidates siphoning off potential support which could assist the Texas ticket to afford media to help them communicate their strengths to the voters.

Some things which do not cost money have been denied some of the Party's nominees. From the State Party, there remains little support for the down ticket candidates. When Judge Bill Moody came from El Paso to Austin for a news conference announcing his walking tour, he visited the TDP HQ. Sevral staff members told him they might come to his news conference. Although it was only a couple of blocks from State Democratic Party HQ, NOT ONE STAFF PERSON ATTENDED THAT NEWS CONFERENCE.
It is doubtful that anyone in the Baron and Budd lawfirm told them specifically to stay away. However, these folks (TDP staff, with a few exceptions) don't seem to feel that they are employed to support the state wide ticket this year. The only people who have any influence over the TDP are probably those who they know pay the bills. Although it shouldn't be necessary, it appears that someone with the Baron and Budd lawfirm will have to explain to the TDP Staff that the only reason the party exists is to facilitate the party's nominees winning the General Election against Republicans. before they will believe it. The only people they will really listen to is probably Mr. Baron or Mr. Budd!

Judge Bill Moody (running for the Texas Supreme Court) is a strong, qualified Democratic challenger. His opponent, a recent Perry apointee, had no prior experience on the bench! The Texas Supreme Court has been bought and paid for by special interests for years. Judge Moody makes it a practice not to hear cases if anyone involved in that case has donated over $1000.oo to his campaign. That should be a given, but IT IS NOT, with most of the current justices!
Here's a link to a KOS diary on Judge Moody's Walking Campaign across Texas:

Examination of Texas Ethics Reports shows that many who speak the most about "Rebuilding for the Future" and "Reclaiming Texas" are not channeling resources toward helping this year's slate to win! They also do not appear to be exerting much influence to prompt the TDP Staff to exhibit public or private respect for this year's slate of candidates. In the rural communities and among activists in Democratic clubs across the state, a very fervent, active, dedicated group of supporters are rallying around the candidates, showing up at County Court Houses when candidate come on Whistle Stops, hosting low-dollar fundraisers, staging multi-candidate rallies and supporting the candidates on the blogs.

The close vote in the State Chair's race this year reflects the disagreement within the party about priorities and methods. The Schedule at State Convention and frustration at the ineffectiveness of the party to assist the Party's nominees in attracting donors and creating effective campaign organizations was expressed in the close vote for Texas Democratic Chair this year. The resignation of Charles Soechting (a lawyer with the Baron and Budd law firm) as State Chair shortly before the State Convention infuriated many delegates. During his tenure, the Democratic Trust (backed by Fred Baron, Russell Budd and their law firm) became the major backer of the Texas Democratic Party. Few financial resources were marshalled into the party's nominees' campaign chests to assist these Democratic challengers in their quest to reclaim the government of Texas from Republican incumbents. Some of the statewide slate were denied their best shot at "selling themselves" to county chairs and activists at the Texas State Convention when TDP Executive Director Reuben Hernandez and TDP Chair Boyd Ritchie reneaged on their committment to schedule all the state wide candidates to speak for ten minutes each one after the other beginning at noon Saturday. The candidates' speeches were interrupted at 1 for the State Chair's election. The hall was almost empty when several of the candidates addressed "the delegation" after 6 p.m. Candidates who complained were told they had "a bad attitude." More than one person was told by Mr. Ritchie and Mr. Hernandez that it is "hearing candidate's speeches is not the purpose of the convention."

This year's state-wide candidates have campaigned NON STOP since the primary, reaching out to citizens all across Texas, despite record high gasoline prices. They are attracting swing voters and many disillusioned Republicans without compromising to try to attract them! Their campaigns are characterized by listening as well as speaking. The only people who appear nonchalant about these candidates seem to be the folks who report directly to institutions that depend directly upon funding from the Texas Democratic Trust.

At a David Van Os Whistle stop on the court house steps of Denton county the first week in September, over 8o people showed up during a work day to talk to San Antonio attorney David Van Os, candidate for Attorney General and Amy Manuel. She is the first Democrat to run for County Commissioner in Denton County for over a decade! There is enthusiasm in the grassroots. A large delegation from Denton County, including Amy Manuel and U.S. House Candidate Gary Page, joined Van Os supporters September 8th at a back-yard fundraiser in South Grand Prairie. String Theory, a band, donated services and entertained the crowd at the home of George and Anne Chamberlain. September 30th, two bands (String Theory and The Ackermans) will join Ballet Folkloric de Fort Worth in donating services to entertain the crowd at a multi candidate speaking rally in Arlington, Take the Truth to the Streets. Activist are determined to show that the best way to REBUILD FOR THE FUTURE is to HAVE decent Democrats in OFFICE. Many low and moderate income democratic supporters are giving until it hurts, supporting the candidates financially and by donating services. They are inspired by the non-stop sacrifices the candidates (and their families) are making.

The House Democratic Campaign Committee, Baron & Budd PC $4,000.00 in 2006

Texas Values in Action Coalition $30,000.00

Texans for Insurance Reform - Baron and Budd PC (lawfirm) $100,000.oo so far in 2006

Texas Democratic Women Pac - Fred Baron $1000 in 2006
Texas Democratic Party Fred Baron - 2006 - $655,000.00

Thus far in 2006, Texas Ethics Campaign Finance Reports reflect that they (Fred Baron and Russell Budd and Dorothy Budd and the Baron and Budd lawfirm)have given $52,250.00 directly to candidates, usually in increments of ranging from $250 to $1000.oo. Sometimes they give $500. Harriet Miller and Catherina Hayes received $5000.00 each.

Some state house candidates have received money from the TEXAS VALUES IN ACTION COALITION which Baron and Budd has supported with $30,000.00 this year plus donations last year to establish the PAC. It appears that most of the TEXVAL money is going to GTOV efforts in some communities. To date, I haven't seen any evidence that the Arlington Voter Development Center funded by TEXVAL is benefiting the Statewide ticket much. In fact, as a activists on the ground in Arlington, it feels to me that the "leadership" at that center is more of an obstacle than a help to the down-tickets I'm working for this election cycle. That is not probably coming from Baron and Budd as much as from the local "leadership."

Baron and Budd and many other attorney's on their large staff were high dollar sponsors of a TexVal fundraiser in Dallas in May 2006 which featured Carville as the keynote speaker. It has been reported that the May fundraiser brought in $200,000.oo for the TEX VAL (Texas Values in Action Coalition). Their fundraiser in 2005 took in over $100,000.OO (source their website)

I think that people who have money and are Democrats have a right to spend it where they think it will be effective. Fred Baron and his associates are the few remaining affluent Democrats who continue to give generously to Democratic candidates and initiatives.

It appears that these large dollar donors do not have the same enthusiasm as I have for the candidates who the voters selected as the Democratic Nominees this year. They do not seem to be embracing their populist message as enthusiastically as the voters on the grassroots are embracing the candidates. David Van Os has visited counties which have NOT BEEN VISITED BY A STATE WIDE CANDIDATE OF EITHER PARTY FOR OVER 30 YEARS.

When you go to the Texas Ethics Commission campaign financial report,
the largest contributor to the Texas Democratic Party is Fred Baron and Russell Budd and attorney's on their staff. When you go to the TexVal (Texas Values in Action Coalition) you find that the same donors are the major backers. When you go to the House Democratic Campaign Committee you find a number of other donors but Fred Baron and attorney's with Baron and Budd stand out as substantial donors.

I applaude rebuilding and planning for future wins. However, this year we have a State Comptroller Candidate who served 14 years in the Texas House of Representatives, fighting for needed reforms and heping to get the Open Records laws passed. Fred Head did not miss one SESSION during 14 years. He served as Chair of the Higher Education Committees, on the House Appropriations Committee, on the joint House/Senate Legislative Budget Board and EVEN TAUGHT ACCOUNTING on the COLLEGE LEVEL. The Dallas Morning News endorsed his opponent who is the current agriculture commissioner. Her performance in that office has been deplorable! She couldn't accurately forecast her own department's budget. She has failed to inspect fruits and vegetables coming into this nation from Mexico or keep the scales at the gas pumps inspected -- but we are to give her the check book to the state without a whimper. FRED HEAD IS QUALIFIED AND CAN DO THE JOB. Folks in Texas won't know the difference because some of his old friends WHO KNOW WHAT HE CAN DO are sitting by and not helping him financially. He got a few thousand from one of the partners but not enough to do much with.

The Baron and Budd law firm gave David Van Os $5000.00 when he ran for Texas Supreme Court. I don't think they have contributed to his campaign this year. I know that they haven't shown up on Ethics Commission Campaign Report filed thus far. David is supported mainly by grassroots activists who are giving him $10.51 on line and $20.00 to $100.00 when they meet him at a whistlestop! His billboards are funded by many local donors pooling their funds to pay for billboards in their communities. Right now money to run radio will really help that campaign. Unless someone gives him a substantial amount of money, he will not have yard signs for this campaign.
The grassroots has combined coffee and pie money to help him fund billboards. Right now $3600.00 is due this weekend to renew his two biggest boards for Oct. (Denton and Dallas). Dallas is the base of the Baron and Budd lawfirm and ironically, that board is the one we've had the greatest difficulty raising money locally to fund!

I'd love to see Mr. Baron fund, or influence others to fund, a few FULL PAGE NEWSPAPER ADS in the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star Telegram supporting the STATE WIDE SLATE. We have a REALLY QUALIFIED, HONEST, EXCEPTIONALLY HIGH CALIBER SLATE OF CANDIDATES THIS YEAR. The Dallas Morning New Editorial Board endorsed Todd Staples over Hank Gilbert for Agriculture Commissioner. They were so impressed with Gilbert that they said they'd support him in another race. Gilbert is a rancher, farmer, agriculture teacher running for Agriculture Commissioner against a man whose main experience with cattle is looking at a picture on a milk carton! He's running against the author of the bill enabling the largest land grab in Texas History - the Trans Texas Corridor! If he does not win this race it won't be because he hasn't worked hard. He is definitely the best qualified! With some money in the Gilbert Campaign to fund radio schedules in rural areas Texas can have the first Democratic Agriculture Commissioner and the only real Rancher/Farmer elected to office in Texas since Jim Hightower!

It would be really helpful if some of the money that Baron and Budd have contributed to various PACS and causes were used to COMMUNICATE with voters in DALLAS/FORT WORTH the QUALIFICATIONS of the CURRENT Democratic ticket.

The candidates are working hard to win for us. There are people in Texas who are talking about "Rebuilding for the Future" but who are not channeling resources toward helping them to this slate this year!

Electing decent Democrats to OFFICE is the best way to REBUILD TEXAS FOR THE FUTURE. Chris Bell as Governor will be much better for the state than Perry! I'm glad that Fred Baron helped Chris some recently. But why wait so long?

The down ticket candidates need financial help. Surely Mr. Baron and Mr. Budd can influence some of the PACS which they support generously to marshal resources behind the down-ticket candidates. The best way to rebuild in Texas is to win elections THIS NOVEMBER!
It will be a shame for the voters to not learn that Fred Head, candidate for Comptroller of Public Accounts taught accounting on the University level, and during his 14 years in the Texas House he servd on the Appropriations Committee, the Legislative Budget Board and as Chair of the House Committee on Higher Eduation.
His opponent, the current Agriculture Commissioner, has consistently inflated her resume. She failed to inspect fruits and vegetables imported through Texas for pests and chemicals and the scales at the gas tank.

VaLinda Hathcox, candidate for Land Commissioner, and Dale Henry, candidate for Rail Road Commissoin, both have experience in the field. VaLinda, had Land Commission experience and has a plan for restoring order to that department so that our parks and public lands can be safe and the budget will reflect appropriate amounts for the Public School children.

Building infrastructure in fine. The low approval ratings of Republican incumbents provides a ripe opportunity to win races this year. Instead of writing good candidates off as "not elect-able" because they need money wouldn't it be better to use some of the money that is being banked by Texas Democratic PACS to fund this slate to win this year?

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