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LOBBYIST & LAW FIRM MONEY FLOWS TO FLANNIGAN CAMPAIGN
AUSTIN, TEXAS – Jimmy Flannigan’s December 8th campaign finance report shows that, in the aggregate, Armbrust & Brown PLLC attorneys and their spouses top the list as Flannigan’s single largest donor in the run-off reporting period. Armbrust & Brown-related contributions account for $6,775 of Flannigan’s contributions, or nearly two times than the total of all reported direct PAC contributions. Armbrust & Brown claims “a particular expertise in complex real estate transactions, construction and development,” which alone could explain their support for Flannigan’s platform of “more thoughtful planning of future developments” in Austin. However, a series of successful suits by Flannigan’s opponent, Don Zimmerman, that exposed Armbrust & Brown-provided legal advice as against the interests of the residents of the MUD it represented in Northwest Austin could be an additional motivating factor.
- $6,775 in contributions from Armbrust & Brown attorneys and spouses reported by Flannigan, nearly 17% of $41,059.19 total reported run-off contributions.
- Direct PAC contributions to Flannigan total $3350. Independent PAC expenditures, reported and unreported, on behalf of Flannigan or against Zimmerman total at least $40,926.09
- Lobbyist contributors David Armbrust, Richard Suttle, Kevin Flahive, Michael Whellan, & Peter Cesaro bring additional contributions from notable real estate clients Endeavor Real Estate Group, Austin Board of REALTORS PAC, Austin Apartment Association PAC, & HPI Real Estate Services & Investment
Austinites may be familiar with the law firm of Armbrust & Brown due to high-profile partners-cum-registered city lobbyists David Armbrust and Richard Suttle. Flannigan reports that Armbrust, Suttle, and their spouses abided by the city ordinance-mandated $25 contribution limit triggered by their lobbying activities on behalf of Circuit of the America, Wal-Mart, and other special interests. But in concert with other Armbrust & Brown attorneys and their own spouses, firm-related contributions totaled nearly 17% of the total amount raised by District 6 candidate Jimmy Flannigan in the run-off.
- Flannigan platform includes “more thoughtful planning of future developments” and denounces successful Zimmerman-led suit to save taxpayers $18 million dollars after firing an Armbrust & Brown attorney who urged affected MUD residents to accept the tax as legal and constitutional.
As a lobbyist, David Armbrust reports 22 clients, representing primarily real estate development special interests. Richard Suttle admits to lobbying for a whopping 123 clients, again the vast majority of which are listed as real estate development and investment businesses. Armbrust & Brown attorney Kevin Flahive only boasts 3 lobbying clients, but 100% are in the business of real estate development. Like other lobbyists with ordinance-limited contributions to the Flannigan campaign, Armbrust & Brown lobbyists bring with them multiple maximum contributions to Flannigan from owners and employees of clients. Suttle’s clients include the Endeavor Real Estate Group, with related contributions totaling $1,400, and the Austin Board of REALTORS PAC, who reported a direct contribution of $350 and an independent expenditure of $15,540 on behalf of Flannigan.
While entrenched special interests will always support the candidate they feel is most likely to further their agenda, another reason for Armbrust & Brown’s staggering support of Jimmy Flannigan may be that District 6 candidate Don Zimmerman has gone toe to toe with the firm in the past on behalf of District 6’s Canyon Creek (the former Northwest Austin MUD #1) residents. The story is best told by lobbyist (and Flannigan contributor) Peter Cesaro’s own client, the Austin Chronicle. On December 5th, the Chronicle released a pro-Flannigan piece by Amy Kamp entitled “District 6 Waiting for the Next Subpoena.” Kamp writes, “As Zimmerman's opponent, Jimmy Flannigan, likes to point out, Zimmer man also has a penchant for ‘governance by lawsuit.’”
Flannigan has indeed made a pet campaign issue of Zimmerman’s lawsuits on behalf of taxpayers. One of the most notable Zimmerman championed lawsuit challenged the legality of the 1988 Canyon Creek MUD allocation contract that was certified as legal by an Armbrust & Brown attorney. Upon firing that same Armbrust & Brown attorney, who also purportedly represented the Canyon Creek MUD, Zimmerman secured a new legal team and filed suit on behalf of the MUD. The case was won at the 3rd Court of Appeals, allowed to stand by the Texas Supreme Court, and saved Canyon Creek-area residents $18 million in property taxes. Austin voters like David Gray, a Zimmerman supporter with a Democratic voting record, expressed disappointment that “Austinites may never know if Flannigan, absent Ambrust & Brown and other lobbyists’ financial support, would continue to be so fixated on Zimmerman’s willingness to champion taxpayer interests over special interests.” But, as Zimmerman responded, “the next time District 6 residents drive past the familiar litany of colorful signs proclaiming “Flannigan can fix it!” they may do well to ask themselves, ‘Fix what, and for whom?’”