Monday, April 18, 2011

BS #21: Political Fires

BlogSpasm #21...April 18, 2011

The Texas Ethics Commission is one of those governmental bureaucracies that is supposed to address, among other things, political corruption and fraud. Like most bureaucracies, it is slow and rarely sinks its teeth into the real meat of the matter with meaningful consequences against offenders. Other than personal law suits being filed, this bureaucracy is the primary avenue that a common voting citizen has to redress political malfeasance in whatever form it takes.

And all this brings us to beautiful downtown Irving. A local citizen has filed a formal complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission against mayor Gears (current candidate), Rose Cannaday (current candidate), Roy Santoscoy (former candidate), Alan Meagher (former candidate) and Larry Miller (treasurer of MPAC, the Irving firemen’s PAC) . While the action of the complaints relate to the 2008 election cycle, it is safe to assume that the details outlined in these complaints could be relative and relevant to activities in the current election cycle of the city.

Without going into all of the legal, ethical and smoke filled room decisions that may have been made in 2008 that are germane to the details of the complaints, here is the CCRs view of what was appears to have occurred.

Folks with large sums of money and political influence with specific candidates in the city gave mega-bucks to the Irving firemen’s PAC. The fireman’s PAC then paid firemen to put out yard signs, walk neighborhoods handing out campaign materials; provided meals, bought supplies and worked the polls on election day in an attempt to influence voters for specific candidates. All the while, many voters probably believed these actions by the firemen were acts of benevolence in the name of good, honest and open government. Voters, in all probability, did not know that the firemen were being paid to do these activities.

During the 2008 election cycle, a fireman could make several hundred dollars playing concerned citizen and campaigning for a candidate whose benefactors had donated large sums to the firemen’s PAC.

As previously noted, some of the “Bag Men” listed in the 2008 complaint are currently heavy contributors to the current mayor’s 2011 campaign. They are also giving generously to Cannaday and Dennis Webb who is a Grand Prairie fireman. The “Bag Men” of note and the amounts that they donated to the firemen’s PAC in 2008 and 2009 are: Billy Bob Barnett (Entertainment Center fame and controversy): $25,000; Charles Cotton (Entertainment Center consultant) $15,000; Robert Stewart (Real Estate) $15,000; and Hardy McCullah (?) $5,000.

While firemen are free to campaign for any candidate they choose, the general public should understand that there are definite legal, moral and ethical restrictions necessary if done by the firemen’s PAC: they shouldn’t represent themselves as members of the Irving fire department when campaigning and the activity must be on their personal time. The question of their being paid to campaign with financial sources other than PAC member contributions is a legal determination that will have to be made by the Texas Ethics Commission. It could also be noted that not all members of the Irving fire department support, work or contribute to the PAC’s “chosen” candidates funded by "Bag Men."

Another significant point that is relative to the complaint filed, which will be determined by the Texas Ethics Commission, is: did council candidates (past and present) reflect any/all of the payments made to the firemen by the PAC as an In-kind Expenses on their campaign financial reports? Also, there is the legality of the firemen's PAC accepting funds from individuals who are not Irving firemen. And are these funds from individuals outside the PAC -- those dispensed in campaigns -- allowed to be distributed to the PAC workers?

So, when you see a fireman placing yard signs in the right-of-way (normally three or four signs for the same candidate in a row) or they knock on your door requesting your support for a particular candidate, it could be safe to assume that these folks might be paid by the Irving firemen’s PAC to churn up votes.

There is no denying the terrific work and dedication to duty that Irving firemen bring to their profession. The staff of the CCR just hates to see any of these images possibly tarnished due to their being involved in political activities that have some candidates swimming through the primordial ooze of the campaign to solicit votes.

………………….Mark Holbrook

A reader sez: PAC boy knocked on my door several days ago, handed me a slick brochure for Herbie and asked if I would support Herbie? He slowly turned and walked away, probably afraid I was going to have a heart attack from my uncontrollable laughter and he would have to call 911!!! Anonymous

We Say: Even though laughter is the best medicine, this election needs a good dose of reality to recover from the malaise that has gripped the city. MH

A reader sez: Good one! Hope the Rambler and the Metro will publish this one. We can't shout loud enough from the highest building to inform the voting public in Irving. Anonymous

We Say: Voting will probably accomplish more than shouting, so inform your friends and associates to be sure to do so. MH

A reader sez: Bravo. Well stated. If not careful, the firemen's union will control elections in Irving. Anonymous

We Say: While the staff of the CCR isn’t into Opera, your assessment is on key. MH