Friday, June 17, 2022

Follow the Money in Dallas College Runoff

From: source unknown

If you're looking for a comprehensive article on the Richardson ISD Board of Trustees election, go here: "The Wheel's 2022 RISD Runoff Voters Guide". In most of this post, we're going to follow up on how the money trail of Lynn Strawn Davenport (LSD) leaves a lot for her to answer for. An earlier report about the overlaps in campaign finance for the RISD campaign of Jan Stell and the Dallas College Board of Trustees campaign of Davenport left a few curious details dangling. We'll try to tie things up today. Spoiler alert: Vote for Catalina E Garcia.

Davenport is involved in RISD trustee politics, but more importantly, she herself is running for trustee of Dallas College District 1. In my analysis of the 8-Day Campaign Finance Reports for Richardson ISD, I found some curious details tying Jan Stell's campaign to Davenport's.

A detail I noticed in Jan Stell's report is that Davenport contributed $377 to 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.

Source: The Wheel.

That analysis was based on Jan Stell's Campaign Finance Report. I've now reviewed Lynn Davenport's own 8-Day Campaign Finance Report. It shows an in-kind political contribution of $1,700 from Angela Robertson for "LETTERS TO VOTERS IN LAKE HIGHLANDS" on 4/18/2022. It also shows a political expenditure of $754 for "POSTAGE STAMPS" on 4/27/2022. $754 happens to be exactly twice the $377 that Stell reported receiving from Davenport for an in-kind donation of "postage for mailout (1/2)".

The coincidences in these two reports convinces me beyond a reasonable doubt that the "infamous red mailer" was a coordinated campaign expense by the Stell and Davenport campaigns, with printing, in whole or in part, paid for by Angela Robertson and postage, in whole or in part, paid for by Davenport. Whether they each reported these complex donations/expenditures in their Campaign Finance Reports according to the strict accounting requirements of the law is still an open question. That the public who received these campaign mailers was never told the details in the mailer itself is not in doubt.

I've been told that Angela Robertson is a past president of the Lake Highlands Republican Women (LHRW), but I can't find evidence of that online. The website of the longstanding LHRW (formed in December, 1980) suddenly says, "IMPORTANT NOTICE: THIS CLUB IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE EFFECTIVE MARCH 31ST, 2022 UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE." That's another curious detail in this case.

People can donate. People can collaborate. That's OK. But I hope for and expect transparency in this. The lack of transparency here might rise to the level of it being a violation of campaign finance law. The fact that the partisan red envelopes didn't identify who paid for the mailer might be such a violation. There's not even so much as a "Pol. Adv. paid for by..." on the flier. It took a deep dive into the campaign finance reports to find the coincidences that convince me that Davenport and Robertson are the chief suspects. Whether the LHRW is also involved, I won't speculate. I just know I didn't endorse Stell (she lost) and I won't be voting for Davenport on June 18. Vote for Catalina E Garcia.

If you've read this far, stay for one last observation. According to Transparency USA, the Richardson ISD Families First PAC has spent $54,835 this election cycle. Yowza!!! That's a lot of money to try to buy two seats on the Richardson ISD Board of Trustees. That's in addition to the $55,165 that Sherry Clemens has herself raised for her campaign. It's also another reason to vote for Vanessa Pacheco.


Anonymous said...

Why no mention of the Democratic Party contribution to Vanessa? Seems the critique only flows in one direction?

Jeffrey Levine said...

Dear Mr. "Anonymous",

Either support your claim with evidence, or retract it as "disinformation". So far as I'm aware, there has been no "Democratic Party contribution to Vanessa". Unless and until you support your claim with evidence, there's a good reason why the "critique only flows in one direction".

Unlike the Dallas County Republican Party and its donors, who have explicitly endorsed Sherry Clemens and Lynn Davenport, praised them as "conservative Republicans", and labeled Vanessa Pacheco and Catalina Garcia as "liberal Democrats", the Dallas County Democratic Party has specifically NOT endorsed anyone in these school board races.

I think it's a very good practice to keep school board races non-partisan. After all, the boards are supposed to serve the interests of the entire community, and not pursue a political agenda. Why does the county Republican Party think it's a good idea to introduce politics into the race. I support the non-partisan candidacies of Vanessa Pacheco and Catalina Garcia... and this is in part because they have kept politics out of their campaigns.

And really... "Whataboutism"? We can do better than that, no?

Jeffrey Levine, Canyon Creek, Richardson

Anonymous said...

Did you see the democrat machine turn out for Dr Garcia. Did you see Clay Jenkins endorsement. That seem very nonpartisan to you?
How about the fake outrage that the republicans send out a flyer when the democrat machine was out there churning for their two candidates.

Mark Steger said...

I'm non-partisan in my criticism of political party involvement in local non-partisan elections: "The Partisans Are Coming for District 5". I'm not against individual Democrats and Republicans supporting candidates. I'm against political parties saying vote for so-and-so because she is a member of our political party.

Anonymous said...

So you are on woth democrats or republicans paying doe advertising then?

Jeffrey Levine said...

Dear Mr. or Ms. Anonymous,
In reply to your post of 18-June:
What I saw in the recent school board elections was the participation of citizens--not a "machine"--engaged in the (small "d") democratic process of supporting candidates they believed would best serve the needs and interests of public education in Richardson and in Dallas County.

I'm not unaware that these races took place against a background of partisan polarization that is playing out across the entire country. Unfortunately, this effectively dictated what became the most important issues in our local board elections.

To review, one way this occurred was through the infusion of large amounts of campaign money from an outside PAC, apparently linked to a partisan political agenda. Another came by way of injecting emotionally evocative political issues, especially the teaching of Critical Race Theory, that had no relevancy to our local situation, but seemed specifically intended to inflame political passions, just as it has in our national politics. A third intrusion of politics played out over the past two years, through the politicization of the response to the Covid pandemic that has tragically and avoidably led to more than 30,000 Texans dying unnecessarily, and more than 320,000 nationally. This partisan political issue had an extremely disruptive impact on the RISD board, leading to the resignations of two of our most capable administrators. Yet a fourth political issue came by way of the intrusion of the Dallas County Republican Party into the race, explicitly endorsing two of the candidates as "conservative Republicans", and their opponents as "liberal Democrats".

I acknowledge that my own perceptions may be biased, but I'm not seeing where Democratic voters or activists were responsible for this, other than in response. None of the candidates had any formal party affiliations. Nevertheless, given the circumstances, it should come as no surprise that the elections took on a tone where voters may have felt they had a political stake in the outcome, whether they wanted this or not.

In any case, the notion of a "democrat machine" sounds very ominous and frightening. Please bear in mind that you are referring to actual people, who have hopes, dreams, values, and priorities, in much the same way that you do. Referring to them as "a machine" has a sinister quality. I think we all will be better served to regard one another with more humanity. Thanks! JRL

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you should take a look at the campaign finance reports.
The Richardson Democrats donated $500 to to Ms Pacheco’s campaign. That’s just with a brief review of the over 50 pages filed 8 days (really 6 days, which may be a violation but I’m not a lawyer) before the election. There was Al lot of money coming in the other side too, don’t be so naive.
As for pilciiral machine, that has been used in politics for many years, it refers to the framework and political contacts that parties have in order to influence elections. And I think Ms Pacheco surging ahead in a runoff, with a larger turnout than the race, should at least have people asking a few questions.

Mark Steger said...

Anonymous commenters have been given a lot of latitude in this comment thread. That ends now. The commenting rules say, "Include your name. Anonymous commenters are unwelcome." Anonymoust comments will be deleted.