TX Councilwoman Accepts $6,000 from Taxi PAC while Crafting Favorable Rules

Express News: “Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the taxi industry while she was crafting what would become the most restrictive policies in Texas for transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft, her campaign finance report shows.

“She accepted at least $6,000 from the Texas Taxi Political Action Committee, several top-level officials from Houston’s vehicles-for-hire industry and others associated with taxis and limos in San Antonio.”

“Viagran and a majority of the council adopted policies that they say protect public safety. Detractors, including some council members, say the regulations stifle innovation and don’t really address public safety.”

Companies Bundle Contributions to Skirt KS City Limits, Receive Favorable Treatment

Watchdog Wire (12/22): “Here’s how a handful of cronies stack campaign contributions. In 2012 council members James Clendenin (district 3, southeast and south Wichita) and Lavonta Williams (district 1, northeast Wichita) were preparing to run again for their offices in spring 2013. Except for $1.57 in unitemized contributions to Clendenin, two groups of related parties accounted for all contributions received by these two incumbents for an entire year. A group associated with Key Construction gave a total of $7,000 — $4,000 to Williams, and $3,000 to Clendenin. Another group of people associated with movie theater owner Bill Warren gave $5,000, all to Clendenin.”

“That company, Key Construction, is a prominent company in Wichita. It is an example of a company that seeks to earn outsized profits through the political system rather than by meeting customer needs in the market. Profits through cronyism, that is. Here’s an example. In August 2011 the Wichita city council voted to award Key Construction a no-bid contract to build the parking garage that is part of the Ambassador Hotel project, now known as Block One. The no-bid cost of the garage was to be $6 million, according to a letter of intent. Later the city decided to place the contract for competitive bid. Key Construction won the bidding, but for a price $1.3 million less.”

MI County Commissioner Supported Hiring of Contributor without Disclosure

Record Eagle (12/20): “Grand Traverse County Commissioner Larry Inman lobbied for a local attorney to represent the county in liability litigation, but didn’t disclose he received campaign contributions from the lawyer and his wife.
County board members during a Dec. 17 meeting discussed bids they received from two insurance and liability carriers: the county’s longtime carrier Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority — known commonly as MMRMA — and Municipal Underwriters of Michigan, Inc.

“Inman during the meeting raised questions about continuing to contract with MMRMA, because MMRMA does not let its clients choose their own attorneys in liability litigation. That means, in lawsuits involving the insurance provider, the county couldn’t be represented by Traverse City attorney Christopher Cooke, who along with his wife contributed $2,000 to support Inman’s successful run for a state House of Representatives seat this fall, according to campaign finance records.”

Local Official Admits Taking Gifts, Cash from Contractors; Claims He Lacked Authority to Help Them

Native Times: “‘Yes, I accepted the gifts, but they didn’t influence my decision-making process,” Jason Merida said. ‘I didn’t have the authority to make decisions on which vendors we would use, so they couldn’t.'”

“Among the gifts Merida testified to receiving Wednesday were $20,000 in cash, more than $40,000 in Kohler home fixtures, three all expenses paid hunting trips to Missouri and New Mexico, multiple firearms, a weekend golf trip to Pebble Beach, Calif., two freezers, architectural consultations on a home he and his wife planned to build, two Kawasaki Mule All Terrain Vehicles, a 2009 Cadillac Escalade, tickets to a 2010 Dallas Cowboys playoff game and two trips to Dallas via private plane.

“The former executive and his wife also accepted a birthday trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, that he described as within the parameters of their personal relationship with Lauri and Brent Parsons, the owners of Builders Steel. The Parsons were among six individuals who pleaded guilty last year in connection with the case and both testified that they counted the trip as part of the cost of doing business with the Choctaw Nation.

“Choctaw Nation law does not prohibit employees from accepting gifts from vendors while in their official capacity as long as those gifts do not impact how they make decisions on the job.”

NY Mayor Appoints Lobbyist & Large Donor to Human Rights Commission

NY Daily News: “Mayor de Blasio named a chair for the city’s Commission on Human Rights and eight new commissioners to the agency’s board Friday – including a deep-pocketed lobbyist who donated heavily to the mayor in 2013.

“Newly appointed Jonathan Greenspun, a Mercury Public Affairs Managing Director and registered lobbyist, bundled $4,075 for de Blasio’s 2013 City Hall campaign, and donated another $23,000 towards his transition, according to campaign finance records.”

PA Council Member Accused of Selling City Lots to Insiders, Requiring Buyers to Hire Campaign Contributors

Philly Tribune: “According to the lawsuit filed this week by Michael Pollack, who owns Bag of Holdings, LLC, Johnson was trying to sell city-owned vacant lots to his political insiders and allegedly demanded the buyers use a developer who gave contributions to his political campaign. Through his attorney A. Jordan Rushie, Pollack alleged in doing so, Johnson violated the city’s sale and development policies.

“City policy requires qualified buyers of up-for-sale lots make an expression of interest on those properties, which the complaint alleged Bag of Holdings did. However, many of those properties in the 2nd district ended up being scheduled for sale to Johnson’s political insiders, according to the complaint. According to city policy, a qualified purchaser of its properties is someone who doesn’t own any property that is subject to violation of city codes or ordinances, and has not been in a completed tax foreclosure within five years.”

Candidate for MD County Office Outspent Opponent 7 to 1, over $2M Total

Capital Gazette: “Republican Steve Schuh outspent his Democratic opponent more than 7 to 1 in his bid to become the next Anne Arundel County executive, the latest finance reports released Tuesday show.

“Schuh’s campaign spent $2.2 million in the last three years and raised more than $2.5 million during that time. Schuh also loaned his campaign nearly $400,000 of his own money. The latest report shows he has more than $330,000 cash on hand.”