Saturday, April 30, 2022

RISD Eight Day Finance Reports Tell a Story

From: source unknown

Campaign finance reports are available for review on the Richardson ISD website under "Election Filings". Earlier, I reviewed reports from the first three months of 2022. Now, eight days out from the election, reports for the last month are available. The new reports tell much the same story as the earlier ones, but with a few interesting updates that caught my eye.

Sherry Clemens's 8-Day Campaign Finance Report shows contributions of $1,884.24 and expenditures of $20,976.54. Much of the war chest she is spending is from the $30,242 in contributions she reported earlier. She raised far and away the most bucks in this race.

Jan Stell's 8-Day Campaign Finance Report shows contributions of $6,301.87 and expenditures of $22,064.77. Whoa. Jan Stell didn't raise enough to be spending the big bucks she is. What gives? It turns out, she is self-funding in a big way. She loaned herself $4,000 through March. In April, she loaned herself another $17,000, for a total of $21,000. That's more than her contributions from all other sources combined. Whether you consider such funding to be an attempt to buy herself a board seat, or a show of how dedicated she is to doing something good for kids, or maybe both, that's your call.

Finance reports raise questions about who paid for mailers received by voters in RISD Districts 2 and 5. People in each district received an infamous "CRT" mailer that first accused RISD teachers of teaching "nonsense" and then endorsed either Sherry Clemens or Jan Stell, depending on the recipient's address. Those mailers clearly say (in small print) "Pol. Adv. Paid for by Richardson ISD Families First PAC." The PAC's own 8-Day Campaign Finance Report lists contributions from Sherry Clemens, Lynn Davenport, and Bill Ames, among others. But it doesn't list any expenditures for campaign mailers. It does list, under Candidates Supported, Jan Stell, but fails to list Sherry Clemens. [Correction: An alert reader points out that Sherry Clemens is listed as a supported candidate in an addendum on another page.] Neither Sherry Clemens nor Jan Stell's own 8-Day Campaign Finance Report list any in-kind donations from the PAC. They both show similar size expenses to the same firm, Axiom Strategies of Kansas City, for mailers at about the same time the CRT mailers were sent. Clemens paid Axiom $11,830 on April 18. Stell paid Axiom $11,778 on April 22. So, who paid for these CRT mailers? The candidates? The PAC? There may be nothing nefarious here. Maybe it's only a case of a big expense being paid by the PAC just after the window closed on the 8-Day reporting requirement. In any case, Sherry Clemens and Jan Stell want to be responsible for a school district budget of millions. These are questions that Sherry Clemens and Jan Stell and the PAC might want to clear up for voters to trust that they are up to the bookkeeping challenges of being trustees of a school district.

One last note on those mailers. Sherry Clemens's own mailers say she will "Support our excellent teachers." The PAC's CRT mailer says those same teachers "can't teach the basics" because they are "too busy teaching 'Critical Race Theory' nonsense." Which is it? Are the teachers "excellent" or do they teach "nonsense"? Does it sound like Clemens supports our teachers? Or does it sound like she doesn't know how hard teachers work in their classrooms every day teaching the basics? To me, it sounds like she says different things to different people on different days.

A detail I noticed in Jan Stell's report is that Lynn Davenport contributed $377 to Stell. If you've followed Richardson ISD politics for any length of time, you know all about Lynn Davenport. Enough said. But if you haven't been paying attention, read what I wrote about her in The Wheel's 2022 Voters Guide. Jan Stell accepting money from Lynn Davenport says all I need to know about Stell. Curiously, Davenport's $377 was for "postage for mailout (1/2)" on April 27. The day before, Angela Robertson made an in-kind contribution worth $1,930.28 for "printing of mailout cards (1/2)". The report doesn't say whether there was one or two mailouts, whether the "1/2" means that the amount is half the cost and who might have paid the other half, or if the total donation was split between two campaigns (Stell's and maybe Davenport's own?) and half reported to each, or even whether these two expenses were related in any way. The timings of these contributions and the timing of a partisan red envelope with a flier line up closely. The flier advertised that the "Lake Highlands Republicans" endorsed Jan Stell and Lynn Davenport in their respective nonpartisan races. The flier didn't say who paid for it. Neither did the red envelope as far as I know. If the total cost was high enough, not naming who paid for it might be a campaign finance violation. This circumstantial evidence is only speculation at this point. It certainly isn't enough to connect Lynn Davenport to the partisan red envelopes. It raises more questions than it answers, questions that Stell and Davenport might want to clear up to put to rest any speculation of their own involvement.

[Update: An alert reader reminds me that Lynn Davenport was fined $250 by the Texas Ethics Commission in 2017 because she "did not properly disclose political contributions in the 30-day and 8-day pre-election reports for the May 6, 2017, election."]

Kile Brown's 8-Day Campaign Finance Report was boring. Contributions of $2,275. Expenditures of $2,357. Outstanding loan to his own campaign of $220.

Rachel McGowan's 8-Day Campaign Finance Report was equally boring. Contributions of $7,737. Expenditures of $13,777. No loans.

Vanessa Pacheco's 8-Day Campaign Finance Report was only slightly more interesting. Contributions of $4,213.87. Expenditures of $5,397. No loans. Two contributions totalling $364 were made by Catalina E. Garcia, MD., candidate for Dallas College District 1 Board of Trustees.

Eron Linn's 8-Day Campaign Finance Report is curious in one respect. Contributions of only $225. Expenditures of only $445.72. Either he's relying on name recognition alone to pull him through his re-election campaign, or he doesn't want to win badly enough to raise money to campaign. Whether you consider that confident and admirable or foolhardy and defeatist is up to you.

I know, I know. This has been way too long. I hope a few of you have read all the way to this point. If you know the answers to any of my many questions, answer in the comments or by private message. Then, I hope you tell your neighbors and friends the gist of this analysis. Follow the money. It may not tell you who to vote for (hint: one of the boring ones). But it certainly gives you a good idea of who you might want to avoid voting for (hint: those whose Campaign Finance Reports raise the most questions).


Cathy Murphree said...

I also think it is interesting that some candidates clearly invite questions/comments. Most websites I reviewed offered an email address, and when I emailed Eron Linn a question/comment, he replied that day. I wanted to email Sherry Clemens a specific question but was unsuccessful in finding anyway to contact her. I saw sign-ups for hearing from her campaign, but I did not see a way to ask her my question.
Cathy Murphree

Mike Evans said...

Cathy, I had the opposite happen. I sent an email to a number of friends when the DMN endorsed Mr. Linn, and I cc'd Mr. Linn and Mrs. Clemens. He's never replied and Mrs. Clemens called me. I've never met her nor interacted with her in any way before - just out of the blue she called me to discuss my email.

Cathy, If this is helpful here are all of the emails (gathered from the campaign finance websites).

District 2:
- Sherry Clemens -
- Eron Linn (incumbent) -
- Vanessa Pacheco -

District 5:
- Kile Brown -
- Rachel McGowan -
- Jan Stell -

Mark Steger said...

An anonymous commenter suggests a personal matter might have impacted Eron Linn's re-election bid. Anonymous comments are not welcome here. The election is over. Therefore, I deleted the comment.