Weatherford Democrat

June 13, 2014

King admits failing to report donations


Weatherford Democrat

WEATHERFORD —

By CHRISTIN COYNE

State Rep. Phil King failed to report the details of more than $37,000 in donations his campaign received in 2012, he admitted in an amended campaign finance report sent to the Texas Ethics Commission last week. 

Though his critics, including the Wise County Democratic chair, allege King violated the Texas Election Code and attempted to conceal campaign contributions from Tom Craddick in support of Christi Craddick, King called the claims “fantasy” and untrue. 

King said the omissions were an inadvertent book-keeping error resulting from the chaos of a move from a building that housed his law practice for 19 years, as well as his state representative and campaign office. 

The eight unreported donations included a $25,000 donation from Tom Craddick - the largest single donation received by King between 2010 and 2013, according to a review of four years of campaign finance reports filed by King. 

The $37,250 in omitted donations also included $7,500 from the Fort Worth Firefighters Committee and six other donations of $1,000 or less. 

The $25,000 donation on Nov. 30, 2012, from Craddick was the largest single donation King reported receiving from 2010 through 2013, far surpassing the next largest donations of $10,000 during that time period, the Weatherford Democrat found. 

King said his office has not been able to locate copies of several contribution checks received during the week of the move that should have been put in a file and later entered into the bookkeeping software.

Though the itemized information was originally omitted from the January 2013 campaign finance report, the total contributions amount - nearly $92,000 - was included in the original report.  

His office later used the bank’s digital copies and other campaign finance reports to report the missing contributions. 

“I had no reason in the world not to report it,” King said, adding that he knew the donation was going to be reported in other places, such as Craddick’s own campaign finance report, and that, with the system of cross checks for campaign finance reports, there is no way to hide something like that. 

 

Complaint

After a complaint was filed with the Texas Ethics Commission against Tom Craddick involving the $25,000 donation to King and was publicized last month by Lone Star Project, a political action committee targeting Texas Republicans, King said his office audited two years’ of their books and found the issue.

Aaron Renaud – who, according to the Texas Green Party website, is a candidate for Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 in Denton County and, according to his Facebook page, attends the University of North Texas – told the Democrat that he filed a complaint against King with the Texas Ethics Commission Friday, as well.  

“If we truly believe in honest government and fiscal responsibility, we shouldn’t tolerate someone with continuous ethics complaints,” Renaud wrote.

King challenged Renaud’s claim to live in Decatur and said he was not a constituent. However, Wise County confirmed Renaud is a registered voter in King’s district. 

In 2012, Renaud voiced support for King’s challenger, Decatur resident Matthew Britt, on social media. 

Britt, a Democrat, faces King again on the November ballot. 

“It’s just a liberal opponent,” King said. “It’s the second time they’ve run against me. They can’t win on the issues so they’re trying to generate mud.”

 

Green card donation

Though King said the two issues are unrelated, King’s critics say they believe the missing information is related to a particularly large donation King’s campaign fund made several months prior. 

On July 10, 2012, King made a donation of $25,000 to the DFW Conservative Voters Political Action Committee. 

According to campaign finance reports reviewed by the WD of campaign expenses from 2010 through 2013, King did donate to several campaigns, though no other single expenditure reported by King during the four year period exceeds $6,000.

According to the PAC’s filings with the Texas Ethics Commission noting who received support during the July 31 runoff, Dallas/Fort Worth Conservative Voters backed Christi Craddick and Barry Smitherman for Texas Railroad Commissioner, David Medina for Texas Supreme Court Justice, Stephanie Klick for State Representative of District 91 in Tarrant County, a candidate for district judge in Tarrant County and three Tarrant County constable candidates.

The printing and postage costs of the mailer the group sent promoting candidates for the runoff election totaled just over $25,000, according to the group’s records. 

Craddick easily beat out her opponent in Tarrant County and took nearly 60 percent of the vote statewide during that election.

The donation was not unusual, according to King, who gave $10,000 to the group in January leading up to the recent Republican primary election. 

With a wide distribution base, King said he sees the green card mailer as giving the most bang for the buck for campaign contributions. 

During the 2012 runoff election, he was particularly concerned about the race involving Klick, who faced a tight primary runoff in Tarrant County for the state representative office, according to King. 

Craddick could have completely ethically wrote a check to the DFW Conservative Voters, King noted. “There’s no reason to hide these things.”

 

Prior incidents

Though the state ethics commission has not ruled on the merits of the recent complaint against King, the commission has fined King for other violations in 2006 and 2009.

King said he does take seriously the campaign finance reports, something he compared to a tax return, very long, very detailed and very confusing. 

“I would suspect that we put well over 100 hours a year of staff time into preparing the accounting reports for the Texas Ethics Commission,” King said. “I strongly support what they do but it’s like any accounting thing, if you go and audit anybody, you are going to find errors.”