Austin
1:52 pm
Thu January 19, 2012

For City Council Incumbents, A Huge Fundraising Advantage

File under ‘not terribly surprising:’ In their January 15 fundraising reports, incumbent City Council members running for re-election show a sizable fundraising advantage over their sparse opposition.

The reports, filed 120 days out from the May election, show Mayor Lee Leffingwell leading the pack. He reports $87,624 in contributions, with $7,912.61 spent, and $80,123.19 remaining cash on hand. By comparison, former council member Brigid Shea, who is exploring a run for mayor but hasn’t yet declared, reports $4,200 in contributions, with only $3,200 remaining.

The rest of the reports tell a similar story:

  • Mayor Pro Tem and Place 6 incumbent Sheryl Cole reports $ 54,425 in contributions, $19,299.18 spent, and $36,000.82 cash on hand.
  • Place 2 council member Mike Martinez tallies $70,460 in contributions, $10,059.34 spent, and $64,654.04 remaining.
  • Place 5 council member Bill Spleman lists $3,1460 in contributions, $6438.76 spent, and $25,521.24 left in his campaign chest.

The two challengers for a council seat – Laura Pressley and Kris Bailey, neither of which have yet declared with place they will run in – report far less. Pressley reports $3,100 raised, $767.49 in expenditures, and $2,332.51 remaining. Bailey reports zero dollars raised or spent in the time period.

The pronounced fundraising difference between incumbents and challengers is due in part to the role campaign “bundlers” play. As fundraisers who solicit donations on a candidate’s behalf, bundlers can radically beef up a candidate’s war chest. Leffingwell names nine bundlers in his report, Cole names seven, Martinez names four, and Spelman names one: David Armbrust. A real estate attorney for Downtown law firm Armbrust & Brown, Armbrust serves as a bundler for all four incumbents. Neither Shea, Bailey or Pressley name any bundlers.

Find anything in the filings that piques your interest? Leave us a comment.