Friday, May 18, 2018

CD 5: Pounds' honest wealth vs. Gooden's Pay to Play

"The riches of vanity shall diminish: but he that gathereth with the hand, shall increase them.
Proverbs 13:11

We tend to like the Texas Observer.  Even though they're liberal, they frequently do good work on areas like corporate welfare.  But yesterday's article about Bunni Pounds' work as a political fundraiser for conservative candidates is downright silly:
Thirteen days after the Plano party, Pounds made a big announcement: She was launching her own congressional bid. Pounds is running to replace retiring Congressman Jeb Hensarling, who personally tapped Pounds to take the Dallas-area 5th Congressional District seat he’s held since 2003. Her main qualification? For the better part of a decade, Pounds worked as the political fundraiser for Hensarling and, more recently, for a long list of other GOP candidates, including many prominent Texas conservatives like Van Taylor. On its website, Bunni Pounds & Associates claims to have raised more than $10 million for congressional candidates and “other political clients.” Pounds recently told NBC DFW that the goal of her company was to “make sure our conservative liberty-minded candidates were taken care of.”

She may be campaigning as a grassroots conservative, but she’s fishing for money from the same swampy ponds she frequented as Hensarling’s fundraiser.

Pounds worked as the chief fundraiser for Hensarling’s campaign as he rose to one of the most powerful positions in Washington: chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees banking and Wall Street. She also was the fundraiser for a PAC that Hensarling used to dole out funds to his GOP colleagues. A vehement advocate for extensive deregulation of the financial sector, Hensarling authored the Financial CHOICE Act, a bill that aims to cut the legs out from Dodd-Frank. Pounds was, in turn, charged with securing millions of dollars in contributions from donors, many of whom were in industries that had business before his committee.

After years of only raising money for Hensarling, Pounds set up her own political fundraising and consulting shop in 2015 and within two years had turned it into a half-a-million-dollar business with nine employees, according to her campaign website. The site also boasts that Pounds “is now seen as one of the top fundraisers in North Texas from Fort Worth all the way to Tyler.”

This background raises questions not only about Pounds’ qualifications for office, but about whose debt she’ll be in should she become a member of Congress. Groveling to donors day in and day out is enough to compromise your average politician, to say nothing of someone whose expertise that was before they became a politician.
And?!?  She had a certain set of views on public policy and she raised money from people with similar views on public policy to elect candidates with similar views on public policy.  That's called electioneering 101.

[Note: And, for the love of God, can somebody please explain to the peons at the Texas Observer that Wall St. actually LOVES Government Regulation?!?]

Contrast Bunni Pounds with her opponent:
His name is Monty Bennett, and it’s not even a little surprising that the Dallas hotelier wants to defeat Pounds. Her opponent in the May 22 GOP runoff election is state Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, who passed special interest legislation benefiting Bennett's East Texas ranch while receiving over $100,000 in campaign donations from him, records show.

Gooden’s personal financial statement on file with the Texas Ethics Commission also shows he owns a small slice of Henderson County property with Bennett. Campaign records show Bennett and his MJB Operating LP have given Gooden at least $140,000 for past legislative races, making him Gooden’s largest individual donor.

With the congressional race, Bennett’s critics are seeing a familiar pattern come to a head. Andy Jones, a small business owner who’s clashed with Bennett over property in Henderson County, said Bennett “throws money at everything” to get his way — and questioned whether he would have disproportionate influence over Gooden if elected to Congress.

"That makes me wary because that’s how he works — he buys folks," Jones, a Pounds supporter, said of Bennett’s history of giving generously to Gooden. "I’m afraid with so much money coming from one person — that those votes won’t be straight-up fair."


Bennett’s Henderson County ranch in deep East Texas has been at the center of a long-raging controversy pitting Bennett and Gooden against the Tarrant Regional Water District in Fort Worth. Bennett’s 1,000-acre Lazy W Ranch sits in the proposed path of a $2.3 billion, 150-mile pipeline that will carry water from East Texas to Dallas-Fort Worth, according to court documents.

Less than a year after the water district sought to enter Bennett's property to conduct a survey, Gooden quietly pushed a bill through the Legislature that helped Bennett fight the Tarrant Regional Water District's efforts to condemn a piece of his land for its pipeline.

The 2011 legislation, HB 3864, created the Lazy W District No. 1, a municipal utility district which court records say is comprised entirely of Bennett’s ranch. That has allowed Bennett’s Lazy W to assert “immunity as a governmental entity,” according to a Texas Supreme Court decision that took his side in a procedural fight in 2016.

In an email, Bennett said his and Gooden's joint ownership of an acre in Henderson County had “nothing to do” with the Lazy W District No. 1. Bennett is the president of the board of directors, state records show.

After creating the district, Gooden went to bat for Bennett in his battle to get records from the Tarrant water district, citing his prerogative as a member of the Legislature in 2014 to receive information — including “confidential information“ — as long as it’s used for legislative purposes.

Gooden’s campaign declined to answer a list of questions for this story, including why he owns property with his largest legislative donor and whether he thought Bennett would have undue influence over him if he gets elected to Congress.
Bottom Line:  Both of the candidates in this race have money, but they came about it differently.  Bunni Pounds voluntarily exchanged resources with those of a like mind.  Lance Gooden created a water district to benefit your biggest political donor (on a property where he had an ownership interest).  This does not seem like a difficult choice...

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