Who’s meddling in your local election Tuesday?Maybe somebody outside your city.In one of the strangest turns of this low-profile election, a handful of big-money donors to an Austin-based PAC are paying for cookie-cutter “It’s OK to Say No” anti-bond campaigns across Texas.Some of the campaigns are mystery mailings from nowhere. The campaigns aren’t even based or run in that city or school district.In Fort Worth, it was already fishy that the campaign against the school district bonds is led by residents of the neighboring Crowley district.Did you see that misleading little mailer this week that made up numbers and said “Say No”?It came from Crowley outsiders with no stake whatsoever in the Fort Worth schools.The mailers were funded in part by the same secretive Dallas investor who promoted his own personal slate of candidates in the last water board election.Last week, hotel millionaire Montgomery J. “Monty” Bennett gave $43,000 to the Accountablity First PAC of Austin, which in turn spent $38,000 opposing bond elections in Fort Worth, Bedford, Burleson, Denton, Mineral Wells and four other Texas cities, according to the latest Texas Ethics Commission report.It was Bennett who spent $105,000 in local water board elections May 11 but won only one race.He is still suing the water board over a Dallas-Tarrant County water pipeline through his 1,000-acre East Texas ranch.As far as I can tell, the Fort Worth schools are not messing with his ranch.So why would he mess with us?In Collin County, Lovejoy Superintendent Ted Moore must be wondering much the same thing.Accountability First helped bankroll opposition to $76 million in bonds for the fast-growing district in Fairview and Lucas.“I do find it concerning,” he told WFAA/Channel 8, “when significant dollars are coming into the district to try to influence the election, and the people trying to influence the election don’t have any vested interest in what’s going on in our classrooms.”Accountability First co-founder James Jones of Austin, the owner and executive of Odessa-based American Land & Minerals, wrote Saturday defending the contributions.Local debt in general is “on the verge of crippling our state,” he wrote by email.The PAC raises money “to help regular citizens have a greater voice,” he wrote: “Too often, school districts and special interests run slick campaigns, outspending and outlasting volunteer citizens who uncover wasteful spending. We hope to level that playing field.”At least they actually found some local citizens in Lovejoy.Their “Vote No Mineral Wells” has a White Settlement address 40 miles away.“Concerned Taxpayers of Burleson” should be more concerned more about Retta. That’s where they’re based, four miles from town.But the real head-scratcher is in Ellis County: “It’s OK to Say No to Palmer.”That campaign’s treasurer is based 45 miles away in central Arlington.Besides Bennett, Accountability First’s other recent donors have been higher-education reformer Jeff Sandefer of Austin and embatted University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall of Dallas, currently facing a Texas House investigation over repeated and expensive information requests.It’s OK to ignore strangers.
Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @BudKennedy