Council stance on immigration inspires men to file claims
Six Houston-area men have filed campaign-finance complaints against Austin City Council members as retribution for the council’s decision to end Austin’s business relations with Arizona in the wake of that state’s new immigration-enforcement law.
Jim Doyle, a 67-year-old resident of Conroe with tea party ties, said he filed the complaints in the past few weeks because the City Council “pretty stupidly involved an entire city in a fight with another state” over a law he considers sensible.
That law, which President Obama’s administration con-
tends is unconstitutional, requires local and state law enforcement officers in Arizona to try to determine whether people are in the U.S. legally if there is a “reasonable suspicion” they might not be.
“It’s perfectly reasonable to do everything at your fingertips to go after politicians who do something they shouldn’t,” Doyle said.
Council members reached for comment Friday generally denied campaign-finance wrongdoing, saying a few of the numerous allegations may prove to be technically correct but lack substance.
“This is minor-league harassment, but we’ll respond and make sure we correct any violations,” said Council Member Bill Spelman, who along with Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Member Mike Martinez co-sponsored the resolution to cut the city’s business ties with Arizona.
The complaints, which have been filed against all seven council members, stem from the information they listed on campaign-finance forms required by the Texas Ethics Commission.
The allegations range from illegally accepting contributions from corporations to, in one case against Spelman, failing to properly identify a contributor, Karl-Thomas Musselman, because the campaign listed him as K.T. Musselman.
Council Member Randi Shade said the allegations “turned out to be nitpicky and baseless” and, in a response to the ethics commission, she denied almost all of the charges.
For instance, she said, during her first year in office she did not know she had to file a campaign-finance form in January — eight months after taking office — because she had long since stopped raising money.
She said she was not informed of the requirement until after the deadline had passed and wound up filing the form two days late. She said the other allegations were false.
“It’s a frustrating draw on my time,” Shade said, “but it’s part of the job.”
Council Member Laura Morrison, who won office in the same election as Shade, also missed the January filing, and said only one other allegation, involving how to document a reimbursement, proved true.
“I am fully respectful of my need to be fully transparent and accountable for my campaign finances,” Morrison said. “It doesn’t matter what the motivations were” of the people filing the reports.
Doyle said he and a few friends around The Woodlands began looking into council members’ campaign-finance reports shortly after the council voted to end all city contracts with Arizona companies and limit travel there.
Martinez said he wanted to prevent city employees from visiting a potentially hostile environment where they might be stopped and questioned about their citizenship status.
Doyle said that philosophy is at odds with his political sensibilities. He said he recently joined the tea party movement because he considers the federal government too liberal.
Doyle said he filed a similar ethics complaint a few years ago against a member of the Conroe City Council whom he considered too eager to spend public money. He said that council member was slapped with a $1,400 fine.
Doyle said he has also recently filed ethics complaints against Democratic state Rep. Ruth McClendon of San Antonio and state Rep. Chuck Hopson of Jacksonville, who switched to the Republican Party last year.
Those two are part of a Legislature that, along with Gov. Rick Perry, has shown little inclination to pass the kind of immigration law passed by Arizona.
Doyle said Perry has different motivations than the Austin City Council — political calculation versus what he sees as ideology — but said both are unacceptable to him.
“I haven’t considered filing against the governor,” Doyle said. “But I might.”