Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Laundered taxpayer money promoting Austin 'Housing' Bond

From a Travis County Taxpayers Union press advisory:
Travis County Taxpayers Union (TCTU) expresses concern that taxpayer funds are being used to lobby local voters to vote for the unaffordable Austin Housing Bond on the November ballot.   In the period of March – September, 2013, $103,000 of public funds were laundered through “Foundation Communities”, a 501c3 corporation (the same IRS designation as churches) to promote and sell City of Austin affordable housing bonds.  
There’s further concern with a “non-profit” receiving large sums of public tax dollars that pays exorbitant compensation to its Executive Director ($164,000/yr), and has an extravagant executive payroll of $638,000 (2011).  
Tax exempt status and public service honor shouldn’t be afforded to such lucrative ventures.
“Keep Austin Affordable” is a corporately funded Political Action Committee, created to promote City of Austin UNaffordable housing bonds.  Public filings reveal so called “non-profit” corporate contributions of over $146,000 to fund campaign staffers and other expenses to sell the public on $65 million (plus undisclosed interest payments) in new government debt.  
Links to these reports are below:
Mid-year report (July 15th, 2013)
30-day report (Oct. 7th, 2013)
Here are a few of these leading taxpayer subsidized 501-c-3 corporations, from IRS Form 990 reports, publicly available at www.guidestar.org, 
Corporation                                          Total Grants over last 5 years           Percent taxpayer subsidized
Foundation Communities                  $42.6 Million                                        99%
Lifeworks                                              $41.8 Million                                        96%
Habitat for Humanity                          $16.5 Million                                        97%
Powerful, highly profitable ‘non-profits’ who control $10s of millions in assets are at work in our city bond election on Nov. 5th.  A few of the ‘Pay to play’ special interest groups/corporations, who potentially stand to benefit from the bonds and join in the ‘non-profit’ parade:
Spring Partners                                   $25,000
Realty Austin                                        $10,000
Home Builder’s Association               $10,000
Stratus Properties                               $10,000
Austin Board of Realtors PAC            $10,000
Downtown Austin Alliance                $10,000
FP Austin Partners                              $11,600
Stewart Title                                        $  7,500
Independence Title                             $  5,000
Heritage Title                                       $  5,000
Air Products                                          $  5,000
Highland RI 211, LLC                            $  4,000
TCTU SPAC Treasurer Don Zimmerman comments on the issue: 
“These highly profitable ‘non-profit’ corporations operate at taxpayer expense.  They’re using over $100,000 in taxpayer money to fund campaign staff and promote expanding public debt. In a twisted synergy, they use taxpayer money to fund a political campaign to demand more taxpayer money. ”
Zimmerman continued; “These advocates cite a lack of private charity to provide for the needs of the indigent.  Over a dozen ‘affordable’ housing entities operating in Austin, many privately funded, make a strong case to the contrary.  For proponents there will never be enough government housing or tax dollars to fuel their quest to expand a dependent society.  Studies show affordable housing projects contribute to higher crime rates and lower workforce participation.  Is higher debt, government dependency, crime, unemployment and taxes a formula for a great city?
This special interest campaign makes housing for everyone more unaffordable with higher taxes, rents and house payments.  It particularly impacts the elderly, minorities and those who are being ‘gentrified’ out of their homes.  It’s time Austin citizens wake up to the fact the City of Austin:  1) At $2,500 per person a year, spends more than any other large city in Texas to operate – a LOT more; 50% greater than San Antonio and 2) Is already on the hook for almost $8,000,000,000 in bond repayment – a shocking burden that demands $1,000,000 a DAY of local tax dollars.
Shame on these so called ‘non-profits’ for furthering the interests of ‘for-profit’ benefactors who’ve piled on over $100,000 of Housing Bond campaign contributions.” 
The TCTU asks:  Who will speak up for and fund campaign expenses for the beleaguered taxpayer?”
The Travis County Taxpayers Union was established in 2012 as a non-partisan, grass-roots citizens association to fight for sound fiscal policy, open government, voter education and fair taxation.

Early voting begins Monday; learn more about the Austin Housing Bond here.

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