County Attorney Jana Duty responded to the Williamson County Sun regarding Callie Enlow’s front-page bombshell detailing information about her campaign contributions. Duty wrote a letter to the editor (LTE) entitled “Setting record straight”. It didn’t do that, and appeared to raise even more questions. It’s not surprising that a GOP candidate in Williamson County would react like this, becoming defensive, when they see their record in print. The Williamson County Sun is to be commended for exposing the influence of campaign contributions in local politics, and one hopes it is not the last we hear on this subject.
We must keep in mind that, as the “Editor’s Note” below her LTE points out, Duty never returned calls to her office to report her side of the story before the article went to print. In other words it appears this is how Duty wanted to handle this type of news – lashing out after the fact. In her lede, Duty points to “many inaccuracies, misleading information and obvious implications of improper conduct that are false and need correction”. Duty states she did not hold a fundraiser and wants to know how it was “verified”. Her involvement in a fundraiser for Justice Law, soon after a favorable ruling by the 3rd Court of Appeals that involved Law, had been reported twice before in the Austin Chronicle, without refutation. That added to the fact that she wouldn’t return phone calls makes it pretty clear that being on the fundraising committee and having her assistant, Vickie Vickers, coordinating the fundraiser would at least make her involved. This appears to be a matter of semantics and not an inaccuracy.
After that, Duty’s case fizzles. Only the defensiveness of her tone increases. She puts quotation marks around “suspicious light”, implying that the phrase is taken verbatim from the Enlow article, even though the word suspicious is never used. Guilty conscience perhaps? She takes offense to Enlow’s mentioning, without comment, her $40,000 personal loan to her campaign. But there’s nothing wrong with pointing out that Duty’s $100,000-plus campaign warchest is “staggering” and “unusual”. Because in Williamson County, for a County Attorney’s race, that kind of money is unprecedented.
The main question about her $40,000 loan is how she intends to pay herself back. Generally speaking, when candidates loan themselves money and then win, they are allowed to pay themselves back from campaign funds. Therefore all she would have to do is collect more contributions next cycle, sell more influence in 2009-2010, to repay the loan. It is essentially an indicator of future corruption.
She then tries to rationalize her non-suspicious take from “lawyers, engineers, contractors, and business people” by using the cynical ploy that “all candidates do”. Then she has the temerity to wonder why the Democrats finances are not being scrutinized as are those of the Republicans. Her opponent, Jaime Lynn, at the time of the July filing, had around 1 percent as much cash on hand as Duty. The Democratic candidate for Precinct 3 Commissioner, Greg Windham, is at a decided money disadvantage as well to the status quo incumbent. The Democratic candidate for Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Grimes is not accepting corporate or PAC money, as well as no individual contribution of over $250. That’s probably why their donations weren’t scrutinized. And no, it’s not a partisan witch hunt, since the three GOP candidates are the only ones getting campaign contributions from those that currently get work from the county.
Granted, the facts reported by the Sun reveal no illegal activity by the three GOP elected officials spotlighted. However, it is extremely important that the voters in Williamson County know who is funding their campaings, whose interests they will be representing, before deiciding who they should vote for in this election. Accountability comes in November.