A damning article about the cozy relationship between Williamson county Republicans and those who do business with county government appeared in Wednesday’s Williamson County Sun. Reporter Callie Enlow uses the ethics complaint against Texas 3rd Court of Appeals Chief Justice W. Kenneth Law as a lede into a detailed analysis of the campaign finances of County Attorney Jana Duty and Commissioners Lisa Birkman and Valerie Covey.
When Texans for Public Justice questioned last week whether local Chief Justice of Appeals Ken Law collected contributions outside of the law, the government watchdog group thrust other Williamson County candidates’ fundraising into the spotlight as well.
Regrettably, no online link to the article is currently available. The story is familiar to our regular readers, but Enlow’s words in print are likely to reach an entirely new audience, with potential ramifications for the Republicans whose finances were “thrust… into the spotlight.”
Enlow first examined Duty’s July campaign contribution and expenditure report, the most recent available. “Ms. Duty showed a staggering $103,611 in her fund. Ms. Duty loaned herself $40,000 between March 31 and June 27 this year,” Enlow reported.
Chasco Contractors founder Chaz Glace and his wife were identified as major contributors, giving $23,000 to Duty. Williamson county has awarded several large contracts to Chasco.
In Williamson County, Chasco is attached to a number of road and building construction projects, including Ronald Reagan Boulevard North Phase 1, Limmer Loop Phase 1, Lakeline Ranch Townhomes and the liner for Williamson County Landfill. As county attorney, Ms. Duty reviews contracts that Chasco would enter into with the county to provide these services.
Enlow identified other names from Duty’s campaign reports that do business with the county:
Robert Wunsch, developer of La Frontera, the 382-acre mixed use site straddling Williamson; Tim Timmerman, President of Commerce Property of Texas; and Steve Kallman of SD Kallman engineers all donated more than $1,000 to Ms. Duty’s two campaigns.
The stain then spreads to other Republicans currently seeking re-election:
Those three men also donated to the re-election campaigns of precinct commissioners Lisa Birkman and Valerie Covey. Many more developers, engineers and political action committee (PAC) donations peppered both candidates’ reports.
Enlow then ticks off a list of PACs who are funding Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman’s campaign:
Hallf Associates PAC, HDR PAC, HNTB PAC, LAN PAC and TCB (Turner Collier Braden) PAC all donated more than $20,000 in contributions from political action committees or individuals associated with developinent-based businesses.
The list gets even longer when examining Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey’s campaign finance report:
In addition, [Covey] reported donations from Bob Gregory, owner of Texas Disposal Systems landfill and Don Bourn, CEO of Bourn Partners, a Phoenix-based development corporation. Bourn Partners are currently developing Westinghouse Pointe in Georgetown and have previously completed Longhorn Junction and Williamsburg Village.
Completing the tie-in back to the Ken Law complaint, Enlow quoted the Director of Texans for Public Justice, a group that describes itself on its web site as “a non-partisan, non-profit policy and research organization which tracks the influence of money and corporate power in Texas politics.”
Craig McDonald, Director of Texans for Public Justice said, “generally in Texas campaign money flows from people who want favors out of their elected officials. It’s no surprise, particularly in a rapidly growing county like Williamson, that many donations come from sources close to development. Anyone with ethical standards finds that troubling.”
It is troubling indeed. Enlow and the Sun are to be commended for their reporting. The September 24 issue is a must-have. Get it now and read the entire article. EyeOnWilliamson.org will have much more to say about this article soon.