Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Congressman Lamar Smith - Shameless Solar Liar

Congressman Lamar Smith, District 21:


Thanks for wasting my tax dollars to send me your color brochure promoting yourself and your wasteful government programs. You are a perfect expample of the reason I abondoned the Republican Party and now serve as Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Texas: http://lptexas.org/

Smith, please check all that apply to you:

__I am a Republican and believe that government can solve our energy problems better than the market.
__I don't care how inefficient solar energy is, doggonnit, I just love it:
http://www.cato.org/research/articles/taylor-030804.html
__I thought since you lived in Molly Ivin's and Jim Hightower's neighborhood, you must love solar power, so I thought I'd tell you what you wanted to hear.
__I think that if I pretend to sound like a liberal, liberals won't hate me so much.
__I didn't know that my cynical promotion of stupid policies designed for short-term political gain might be teaching all the Republicans out there to support stupid policies like incentives for solar energy.
__I'm just an idiot. To be honest, I don't know or care whether solar energy works. Please vote for me regardless.

Lamar, you say you want to "ban price gouging in gasoline." Would you rather see people stuck in gas lines? Did you forget that the opportunity to make an extra buck is an incentive for distributors to anticipate shortages in order to ensure a supply at the most critical times?

Lamar, I won't comment on your plan to add to the federal government's control over more of our land. You've explained yourself quite clearly.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Austin Council Members Contradict Police Association PAC Testimony

November 11, 2005

Austin Council Members Contradict Police Association PAC Testimony

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Wes Benedict: 512-442-4910, wesbenedict@aol.com, http://wesbenedict.blogspot.com/

Austin, Texas - According to a letter from the Texas Ethics Commission dated November 8, a sworn statement by a former treasurer of the Austin Police Association PAC (APAPAC) has been contradicted by the testimony of three Austin City Council members.

In 2003, APAPAC spent over $40,000 on advertisements that supported City Council candidates Raul Alvarez, Will Wynn, Danny Thomas, and Brewster McCracken. APAPAC's treasurer, Sean Mannix, was required to send a letter notifying the supported candidates that APAPAC had spent money on their behalf. The candidates were also required to report that notification on their own finance reports.

However, none of the candidates reported the notification. That concealed the link between APAPAC and the candidates.

Candidate Wes Benedict, who ran against Thomas in 2003, filed several complaints with the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) when he learned of the problem.

In response to one of the complaints, Mannix testified that it was his practice to give affected candidates notification of any direct expenditures made for them. This testimony allowed him to avoid TEC penalties.

However, Alvarez, Wynn, and Thomas all testified that they did not receive any notification from APAPAC.

Wes Benedict said, "It's pretty hard to believe that all those candidates would commit the same violation, and lie about it later. My hunch is that Sean Mannix lied when he said he notified them. I don't think he ever sent the letters. If he did, I'd like him to show copies of them. If he failed to notify four candidates, it obviously was not his 'practice' to notify them."

Failure by a PAC to provide the notification is a Class A misdemeanor. Failure by a candidate to report the notification is also a Class A misdemeanor. In addition, the TEC may impose civil penalties.

Making a false affidavit to the TEC constitutes perjury.

APAPAC was fined by the TEC earlier this year because it was late notifying candidates of direct expenditures related to the May 2005election.

The TEC documents may be found here:
http://www.wesbenedict.com/mannixtec1.pdf
http://www.wesbenedict.com/alvareztec1.pdf
http://www.wesbenedict.com/thomastec1.pdf
http://www.wesbenedict.com/wynntec1.pdf

The earlier APAPAC fine may be found here:
http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/sworncomp/2005/250460.pdf

###

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Pro-Smoking Ban Group Fined for Ethics Violation

Austin, TX - October 12, 2005.

Onward Austin, the political committee that supported the smoking ban measure in the May 2005 city election, has been fined $500 by the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) for failing to disclose a $35,000 contribution of money by American Cancer Society, Inc.

The TEC's order may be found at http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/sworncomp/orderlst.html. The complaint number is SC-250591.

The complaint was filed by local Libertarian activist Wes Benedict on May 10. Benedict was a candidate for city council in the May election, and he actively opposed the smoking ban measure.

Benedict said, "This corporate money should have been reported before the election, but we didn't find out about it until months afterward."

Benedict continued, "$500 doesn't sound like much compared to $35,000, but I think the TEC's fines need to be understood in context. Even for serious violations, the TEC generally imposes a low, symbolic fine, and leaves it up to the press and the public to punish the violators."

Of the more than 560 complaints filed with the TEC since the beginning of 2002, only 45 have resulted in fines of $500 or more.

=-=-=-=
Contact
Wes Benedict
phone: 512-442-4910
email: wesbenedict@aol.com
####

Friday, August 12, 2005

Texas Ethics Commission Fines Austin Police Association

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Texas Ethics Commission Fines Austin Police Association

Austin, TX - August 12, 2005

The Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) has imposed two fines against the Austin Police Association PAC (APAPAC) for illegal reporting related to its support of Austin City Council candidates in the May 2005 election.

APAPAC spent tens of thousands of dollars to support Lee Leffingwell, Gregg Knaupe, and Betty Dunkerley.

The first fine was imposed for APAPAC's failure to notify candidates of its expenditures on their behalf. That caused some of the candidates not to list APAPAC on their reports.

The second fine was imposed for APAPAC's handling of contributions it received from Real Estate Council of Austin members in April. It failed to disclose the contributors' occupations, and did not properly disclose the names of the candidates it was supporting.

The first fine was $100, and the second was $500. The fines resulted from complaints filed by Wes Benedict, who ran against Dunkerley.

"I'm glad the TEC has confirmed that this illegal behavior occurred," said Benedict. "The fines are small in comparison to APAPAC's large expenditures, but the TEC is known for handing out small fines. $600 in fines indicates something serious."

By comparison, of the approximately 450 complaints received by the TEC from 2002 through 2004, only 36 resulted in fines of $500 or more.

The TEC orders may be found here:
http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/sworncomp/2005/250460.pdf
http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/sworncomp/2005/250463.pdf

=-=-=-=

Contact
Wes Benedict
phone: 512-442-4910
email: wesbenedict@aol.com

#######

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Benedict Alleges City Ordinance Violations by PACs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Benedict Alleges City Ordinance Violations by PACs
Austin Firefighters, Austin EMS, Austin Apartment Association Broke City Law

Austin, TX - August 4, 2005

Three local political committees have violated several of Austin's campaign finance ordinances.

Wes Benedict, former Austin City Council candidate, delivered a letter to the city clerk's office today requesting an investigation by the city attorney and the Ethics Review Commission.

The committees are the Austin Travis County EMS Employees Association PAC, the Austin Firefighters PAC, and the Austin Apartment Association PAC.

City ordinances require political committees to file a "notice of intent" at least 60 days before making expenditures in a city election, so that local press and voters will know in advance which committees plan to influence the election. The three committees failed to provide such a notice.

The ordinances also require committees to file "special reports" in connection with large expenditures, and to file copies of their contribution/expenditure reports with the city clerk.

"I want to make it clear, these are not violations of the city charter, these are violations of city ordinances," said Benedict. "Each one of these violations is a minor criminal offense."

Benedict noted that the Austin Police Association PAC did comply with the ordinances. "As far as I can tell, the APA filed a notice of intent, filed copies of its contribution/expenditure reports, and filed its special reports."

Benedict continued, "I am concerned that these other political committees did not feel the need to comply with city law, even though they spent a lot of money to support their favored candidates in the city elections."

The text of Benedict's letter follows:

=-=-=-=
Robert C. "Wes" Benedict, Jr.
1403-B Kenwood Avenue
Austin, TX 78704


Shirley Brown, Austin City Clerk
Ethics Review Commission: James W. Reed (Chair), Frances McIntyre (Vice
Chair), Mina Brees, Ronnie Jones, Catherine Kyle, Patrick Victor
Reinhart, Timothy Sulak, Jose de la Fuente

August 4, 2005

Dear Ms. Brown and members of the Ethics Review Commission:

This letter is to notify you that three general purpose political committees have committed offenses under Chapter 2-2 of the City Code.

Section 2-2-15(B) of the City Code requires that "A general purpose political committee which makes more than 50 percent of its expenditures in a reporting period in connection with City elections, or makes a contribution or expenditure of $2,500 or more in connection with a City
election, or intends to do so, shall file with the city clerk as a notice of intent an original or a copy of its current 'Appointment of a Campaign Treasurer' at least 60 days before making a contribution or expenditure in connection with a City election."

The expenditures mentioned below supported the following city council candidates: Lee Leffingwell, Jennifer Kim, Gregg Knaupe, Margot Clarke, and Betty Dunkerley.

1. Austin Travis County EMS Employees Association PAC (ATCEMSEAPAC)

ATCEMSEAPAC participated in the May 7 city election.

On April 29, 2005, ATCEMSEAPAC made expenditures greater than $2,500 to support Lee Leffingwell, Gregg Knaupe, and Betty Dunkerley.

a. According to the city clerk's office, ATCEMSEAPAC filed no "notice of intent", in violation of section 2-2-15(B) of the City Code.

b. ATCEMSEAPAC failed to file special reports related to these expenditures, in violation of section 2-2-21(A) of the City Code.

The relevant MPAC document is enclosed. It was obtained via the Internet:
http://txprod.ethics.state.tx.us/public/277730.pdf

2. Austin Firefighters PAC (AFFPAC)

AFFPAC participated in the May 7 and June 11 city elections.

During the March 29 - April 27 period, AFFPAC made 100 percent of its political expenditures to support Jennifer Kim and Margot Clarke.

During the April 28 - June 3 period, AFFPAC made expenditures over $2,500 to support Lee Leffingwell, Jennifer Kim, and Betty Dunkerley.

During the June 4 - June 30 period, AFFPAC made 100 percent of its political expenditures to support Lee Leffingwell, Jennifer Kim, and Betty Dunkerley.

a. According to the city clerk's office, AFFPAC filed no "notice of intent", in violation of section 2-2-15(B) of the City Code.

b. AFFPAC failed to file special reports related to these expenditures, in violation of section 2-2-21(A) and 2-2-21(B) of the City Code.

The relevant GPAC documents are enclosed. They were obtained via the Internet:
http://txprod.ethics.state.tx.us/public/276390.pdf
http://txprod.ethics.state.tx.us/public/279270.pdf
http://txprod.ethics.state.tx.us/public/283151.pdf


3. Austin Apartment Association PAC (AAAPAC)

AAAPAC participated in the May 7 and June 11 city elections.

During the January 26 - February 25 reporting period, AAAPAC made 100 percent of its political expenditures to support Betty Dunkerley.

During the March 26 - April 25 reporting period, AAAPAC made 100 percent of its political expenditures to support Gregg Knaupe, Jennifer Kim, and Lee Leffingwell.

During the April 26 - May 25 reporting period, AAAPAC made expenditures over $2,500 to support Jennifer Kim.

a. According to the city clerk's office, AAAPAC filed no "notice of intent", in violation of section 2-2-15(B) of the City Code.

b. AAAPAC failed to file copies of its contribution/expenditure reports with the city clerk's office, in violation of section 2-2-15(A) of the City Code.

c. AAAPAC failed to file special reports related to these expenditures, in violation of section 2-2-21(A) and 2-2-21(B) of the City Code.

The relevant MPAC documents are enclosed. They were obtained via the Internet:
http://txprod.ethics.state.tx.us/public/273317.pdf
http://txprod.ethics.state.tx.us/public/276126.pdf
http://txprod.ethics.state.tx.us/public/279027.pdf

I ask that you refer these matters to the city attorney for investigation.

I ask the Ethics Review Commission to consider these matters at its next meeting.


Sincerely,

Robert C. "Wes" Benedict, Jr.

=-=-=-=

Contact
Wes Benedict
phone: 512-442-4910
email: wesbenedict@aol.com

#######

Monday, July 18, 2005

Dunkerley Returns Over $13,000 in Illegal Contributions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Dunkerley Returns Over $13,000 in Illegal Contributions
Other Councilmembers Found to Have Violated Charter

Austin, TX - July 18, 2005

Austin Councilmember Betty Dunkerley has reported returning over $13,000 in illegal contributions made to her recent city council campaign.

The returns were disclosed on Dunkerley's July 15 campaign finance report. The returns were made after opponent Wes Benedict complained about the illegal contributions to the city.

According to Benedict, Dunkerley accepted at least $32,835 from non-Austinites. The city charter restricts contributions to candidates from "sources other than natural persons eligible to vote in Austin" to $15,000 in the general election, plus $10,000 in the case of a runoff. This $15,000 limit is in the same section of the charter that restricts individual contributions to $100.

Benedict and his campaign treasurer, Arthur DiBianca, suspected that much of Dunkerley's large volume of contributions might be from non-Austinites. They examined her reports and compared them to Austin-area voter records. Benedict made his concerns public in April, and Dunkerley responded that she would return the excess contributions.

Benedict commented, "We had to audit Dunkerley's finances for her. If we had not done the work that the city charter requires _her_ to do, none of this money would have been returned."

The city charter specifically states that candidates must determine whether contributions are legal before accepting them.

After subtracting the returns, Benedict and DiBianca calculate that Dunkerley retains at least $19,760 in contributions from non-Austinites, still nearly $5,000 over the limit.

"The charter is clear," said Benedict. "You must stay within the $15,000 limit, and you must take care to determine whether the money is legal before accepting it, not after. Betty Dunkerley did neither."

DUNKERLEY NOT ALONE

Dunkerley is not the only violator. Benedict and DiBianca examined reports from the latest campaigns of the other six councilmembers, and found that most of them also violated the $15,000 limit:

In his 2003 campaign, Will Wynn accepted at least $31,040 in contributions from non-Austinites.

In his 2003 campaign, Brewster McCracken accepted at least $67,300 in contributions from non-Austinites. (Note: McCracken was permitted to accept an additional $10,000 from non-Austinites because he was in a runoff election.)

In his 2003 campaign, Raul Alvarez accepted at least $23,342 in contributions from non-Austinites.

In his recent 2005 campaign, Lee Leffingwell accepted at least $25,500 in contributions from non-Austinites.

In her recent 2005 campaign, before the runoff period began, Jennifer Kim accepted at least $25,845 from non-Austinites.

Only Danny Thomas stayed within the charter's limits in his most recent campaign.

"These discoveries are troubling," said Benedict. "In many cases these six candidates won their seats by outspending their opponents. Now we see that a lot of the money was obtained illegally."

DiBianca commented, "These councilmembers had better return the excess money right away."

Dunkerley's latest finance report may be found here: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/election/downloads/bdunkerley_071505.pdf

Benedict and DiBianca will provide a spreadsheet of their analyses of the candidates' contributions upon request.

AUSTIN CITY CHARTER

Article III, Section 8(A): "Limits On Contributions To Candidates. No candidate for Mayor or City Council and his or her campaign committee shall accept campaign contributions in excess of one hundred dollars ($100) per contributor per election from any person, except for the candidate and small-donor political committees. Each candidate may authorize, establish, administer, or control only one campaign committee at one time. No candidate and his or her committee shall accept an aggregate contribution total of more than fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) per election, and ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in the case of a runoff election, from sources other than natural persons eligible to vote in Austin."

Article III, Section 8(E): "Responsibility Of Candidate To Prevent Violations. The candidate, or his or her committee, shall determine whether accepting each contribution would violate this section before accepting the contribution."

Article III, Section 8(K): "Penalties. Any violation of this section is an offense. Any knowing violation of this section by an incumbent officeholder or officeholder-elect shall ipso facto result in the forfeiture of the office by the person so violating it."

=-=-=-=

Contact
Wes Benedict
phone: 512-442-4910
email: wesbenedict@aol.com

Contact
Arthur DiBianca
phone: 512-707-2809
email: adibianca@austintx.net

#######