AUSTIN -- State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) and state Attorney General Greg Abbott (R-Texas) both say the latest campaign finance reports raise red flags concerning their opponent.
Reports made public this week detail fundraising and expenditures by candidates and committees during the period between July and December 2013. After raising $11.5 million through the second half of 2013, Abbott ended the year with roughly $27 million cash on hand. Davis reported raising $12.2 million, a total which includes $3.5 million raised by a separate committee organized to raise money for Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts. Davis entered 2014 with a total balance of $9.5 million.
The latest clash between the Davis and Abbott campaigns concerns Lorenzo Garcia, a former Abbott staffer and president of the University of Texas branch of the Young Conservatives of Texas. Garcia was roundly criticized in November after attempting to organize a "catch an illegal immigrant game" on the school's campus. The game offered a reward for students who catch one of "several people walking around the UT campus with the label 'illegal immigrant' on their clothing," but was canceled after near-universal condemnation.
When news of the game broke on Nov. 18, Abbott quickly denounced the proposed event as "repugnant." The campaign told KVUE that Garcia had not been a staff member for nearly two months. The latest campaign finance reports show several payments to Garcia between July and November 2013. The last two payments were for $1,998.44 on October 1 and $588.43 on November 1, which Davis' campaign contends show Abbott's campaign deliberately misrepresented when Garcia actually resigned.
"Greg Abbott’s camp lied about their association with the organizer of the heinous mock immigrant hunt,” said Davis campaign spokesperson Rebecca Acuña. "The organizer of the mock immigration sting received a paycheck from Greg Abbott in October and November. Greg Abbott’s campaign intentionally deceived Texans.”
When reached by KVUE Friday, Abbott's campaign replied that Garcia resigned Oct. 8, nearly a month and a half before news of the game emerged. Staff members are paid on the first of each month for the previous month's work, and Abbott's campaign explained the payment on Nov. 1 was for the eight days Garcia worked at the beginning of October.
"The Davis campaign appears to have a serious problem understanding Texas Ethics Commission reports," said Abbott campaign spokesperson Matt Hirsch. "It’s more evidence of a campaign that’s not ready for primetime."
At the same time, Abbott's campaign has seized on the recent financial statements to accuse the Davis campaign of hiding political donations. A press release from the Abbott campaign pointed to 84,704 small-dollar donations worth more than $1.3 million, which account for 85 percent of donations received by Davis. Abbott's campaign noted the attorney general's financial report contained no unitemized contributions and called on Davis to release more information.
"In the interest of transparency, open government and accountability, Texans deserve to know who is funding Sen. Davis' campaign," said Hirsch. "Why is Sen. Davis hiding the source of hundreds of thousands in contributions? Why did Sen. Davis and her campaign pick and choose which small-dollar donors and contributions to report? Sen. Davis’ failure to list all donors and contributions raises questions about how open Texas government would be if she’s elected."
"Sen. Davis outraised Greg Abbott, and they're embarrassed," said Acuña, who said the campaign simply followed the rules. The Texas Ethics Commission does not require donations under $50 to be disclosed on candidate and committee financial reports.
The November election is still nearly a year away, but the fight between the two inevitable party nominees is already heated. For political junkies, that means 2014 will provide plenty of action.