While We're on the Subject of Dallas County District Attorney's Race, Let's Look at Watkins', Clancy's Campaign Finance Reports

Categories: Politics

Craig_Watkins_061910.jpg
Sam Merten
Craig Watkins
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins outraised Republican challenger Danny Clancy by more than $50,000 during the latest three-month fund-raising period, while Clancy outspent his Democratic counterpart by more than $20,000, according to campaign finance reports. Both candidates struggled to raise dough -- Watkins nabbed just $136,000 and Clancy $83,000 -- and each has less than $100,000 to spend with just a few weeks remaining until the November 2 election.

Baron & Budd has become the top contributor to Watkins' campaign, providing in-kind donations of rent, administration services, copies and postage totaling $30,000 from July 1 through September 23. The law firm previously contributed in-kind donations totaling $23,000 during the previous reporting period. Watkins also received $10,000 from OS Consulting (owned by Billy Bob Barnett of Billy Bob's Texas), $2,500 from Don Henley of the Eagles and numerous contributions from law firms and criminal defense lawyers. Pledged contributions are highlighted by a whopping $33,500 from lawyer Jeffrey Tillotson, $5,000 from state Representative Rafael Anchía and $2,500 from consultant and radio personality Willis Johnson.

Clancy received $10,000 from Stephen Davis, the son of billionaire Ray Davis, who's one of the principal owners of the Texas Rangers. Ray also contributed $1,000 to Clancy's campaign. Spokesperson Brian Mayes says Clancy met Stephen "on the campaign trail," where the two became friends. Other contributions to Clancy's campaign include $5,000 from Dallas philanthropist and former state Republican Party chairman Peter O'Donnell, $5,000 from car dealer Jerry Freeman and $1,000 from the Dallas Police Association PAC.

Four of Clancy's contributions were reported as anonymous, which is prohibited by Section 254.001 of the Texas Election Code, according to Tim Sorrells, deputy general counsel with the Texas Ethics Commission. Sorrells tells Unfair Park that Clancy could face a fine up to $5,000 for each violation if someone files a complaint. Mayes says it was simply a case of handing out a collection hat at an event where supporters put in cash without attaching their names to it. While the code offers no solution to returning contributions to unknown donors, Sorrells points to TEC Opinion No. 207, which allows for the transfer of such donations to recognized tax-exempt charitable organizations.

As we reported in March, money from Watkins' campaign has consistently found its way into the pockets of his family members, and that trend continues. Kurt Watkins, Craig's cousin and campaign manager, was paid $24,000 and T-Shirts Etcetera, a T-shirt screening company run by Craig's younger brother Greg, was paid $5,000 during the same period. Watkins' relatives or their businesses have now banked more than $125,000 from his campaign.

That same story listed several utility expenses paid from campaign funds and pointed out that the size of the payments suggested that Watkins wasn't splitting the bill between the businesses sharing space with his campaign at 2531 MLK Blvd. -- a building he owns and is also occupied by a Fidelity National Title branch that he owns with wife Tanya, her political consulting business (Grass Root Strategies), Kurt's public relations company (W Public Relations) and Pat Mays Realtors. Three of those monthly utility payments -- electricity (TXU Energy), gas (Atmos Energy) and phone (CBeyond) -- and a mail machine lease (Great American) mentioned among items that we couldn't verify whether they were being used by any of the other businesses have ceased.

The last payments to TXU, Atmos and Great American were in March, and after payments in January and February, the last payment to CBeyond was in June -- all of which were on his previous campaign finance report, which we've included at the end of the story, along with the most recent reports.

"The administrative functions of the campaign no longer take place at the office on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.," Kurt Watkins said in a statement when asked why the payments stopped.

Watkins also paid fund-raiser Progressive Capitol Group $20,000, recently departed communications director Eric Celeste $13,000, communications technology director Everett Hinson $12,000 and field operations director Renee Hartley $6,000 (who also just quit the campaign) and donated $5,000 to the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White.

Clancy, a former Dallas County prosecutor and criminal court judge, spent more than 82 percent ($176,000) of his expenses on Allyn Media, including $90,000 for a television commercial. He also paid $15,000 to Cynthia Wiedemann's Fundraising Solutions. Mayes of Allyn Media says his client is spending his money wisely.

"Danny has very smartly spent his money on things that get the message out as opposed to spending $100,000 on first-class travel and meals," he says.

We also asked Mayes to respond to the following comment from Watkins given in an October 1 interview to Dallas South News' Shawn Williams: "We don't need someone that's an empty suit or spineless and mindless as it relates to what we do here in the DA's office because, actually, this is the most important political position that you can hold in Dallas County."

"His comments are a sign of desperation," Mayes says. "I mean, geez, from his numerous scandals to his improper use of campaign funds, Watkins finds himself with a serious credibility problem."

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