More out-of-town campaign contributions are going to City Council candidates. (KRIS 6 News)
CORPUS CHRISTI -
More out-of-town money than previous years is funding Corpus Christi City Council elections.
6Investigates found all but one council member accepted money this past year from out-of-town campaign donors. The money came from Austin, Dallas, Houston, and even money from as far away as Maryland.
Councilman Chad Magill brought in $14,000 in out-of-town money - the most of any other council member. About $5,000 of it came from the president of a Houston company: Reytec Construction Resources. The company has multi-million-dollar contracts in Corpus Christi for street reconstruction and repairs, including the street work on McArdle Road and Williams Drive. Another $4,500 came from real estate interests groups based in Austin.
"I'm a firm believer that campaign dollars do not translate to a voice on council. Every voter, every citizen in Corpus Christi has a voice on council," said At-Large Councilman Chad Magill, who has received the most out-of-town political contributions. “It's their seat. It's their chair."
It doesn't stop there. At-Large Councilman Mark Scott received money from apartment developers doing business in Corpus Christi and money from donors in Ohio and Massachusetts. Not to mention a $4,000 check from the Texas Real Estate PAC in Austin. Both Magill and Scott work for title companies.
Thousands of dollars in out-of-state money went to City Council newcomers Brian Rosas and Lucy Rubio. The money has ties to the Chapman Ranch Foundation, which lost its fight against city annexation in 2014. Chapman Ranch foundation trustees then gave money to Rubio and Rosas to influence the 2014 election and current makeup of the council.
The simple fact is: although voting is free, to win a seat on the council is not cheap. The average council candidate will spend $50,000 to $75,000 dollars to run for election. Most candidates depend on campaign money, often from special interests, to get their message out and sway voters at the polls.
Local candidates reaching for out-of-town money is part of a nationwide trend, according to political analyst David Smith.
"It feels like it's really reaching beyond what they should because they're supposed to represent the city, but unfortunately there is money interests that are coming from outside that may not always be as prevalent or as prominent, as the say, the average local resident who lives within the city confines,” Smith said, a political science professor at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. “To some people that can be disconcerting."
Carolyn Vaughn is the only candidate who did not receive any out-of-town money. She did receive local contributions, but largely financed her own campaign for the District 1 council seat by loaning herself about $165,000.