Mayor Tom Leppert hasn't formally announced his candidacy for Kay Bailey Hutchison's gig just yet, but he hired Republican fund-raiser Shelly Carson last year as his finance director and paid her nearly $75,000, according to campaign finance reports. Carson has yet to return a phone call placed to her office at The Reeds Public Relations Corporation -- Leppert's top political advisor.
Carson previously served as deputy finance director for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and finance director for South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint's successful 2004 campaign. She also worked as senior finance advisor for ex-U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra and finance director for businessman Dick DeVos during their failed attempts to become governor of Michigan in 2010 and 2006, respectively.
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Leppert also hired Stan Olshefski last year to manage his revamped website. Olshefski's a former Internet strategist for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and he worked on former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum's unsuccessful 2006 reelection campaign.
The $74,671.06 paid to Carson came from the Re-Elect Tom Leppert political committee created in October 2008. The specific-purpose committee raised almost $83,000 during the second half of 2010 and spent more than $150,000, reducing its balance to less than $11,000. Texas Election Code allows for such committees to support a candidate "who is seeking an office that is unknown," and that office can be a federal position as long as any documents filed regarding his candidacy are also provided to the Texas Ethics Commission.
The mayor raised $52,580 through his officeholder account during the same time period, draining its balance to zero after repaying part of the $950,000 he lent himself during his 2007 campaign. Republican County Commissioner Maurine Dickey, South Dallas political consultant Willis Johnson and former mayoral candidate Darrell Jordan were among the contributors. The balance of Leppert's personal loans stands at $736,412.74.
He also nabbed almost $40,000 through Friends of Tom Leppert. Donations to his second specific-purpose committee created in October 2007 were highlighted by $20,000 given by oil and gas tycoon Trevor Rees-Jones and wife Jan.