City Hall

Rawlings Camp Says He Followed the Letter and the Spirit of Campaign Finance Regulations

Much has been made on Unfair Park and elsewhere over the fact that, due almost certainly to a drafting error, the city of Dallas election code allows for unlimited donations to officeholder accounts.

See also: Ronquillo Calls Out Rawlings On Fat-Cat Contributors. Me, Too.

Marcos Ronquillo, a challenger to Mike Rawlings' mayoral re-election bid, went so far as to accuse Rawlings of violating the spirit of Dallas election rules by taking more than the campaign maximum of $5,000 from several contributors. Ronquillo called on Rawlings to give back almost $100,000.

"We cannot imagine that Mayor Rawlings and his campaign would knowingly and intentionally violate the intent and spirit of ethics laws and try to take advantage of a 'loophole' to accept unlimited campaign contributions as a candidate and officeholder," the Ronquillo press release said. "To maintain the public's trust in our election process, we call on the Mayor and Council to show leadership on this issue and quickly strengthen the city's ethics and campaign rules so there is no ambiguity that unlimited contributions are not allowed."

See also: Here's Written Proof Mike Rawlings Can Keep All Those Big Political Contribution

The Rawlings campaign says that the mayor has done no such thing. Ronquillo's press release and the list of donations his campaign suggested Rawlings give back are based on the assumption that May's election will only be Rawlings' second, they say, and the mayor has actually been in three -- the 2011 general election, the 2011 mayoral runoff against David Kunkle and the upcoming 2015 general election.

According to the city elections code, a runoff, for the purposes of donation limits, is considered a separate election, making the maximum any single contributor could have donated to Rawlings $15,000 rather than $10,000. Hence so many of the contributions on Ronquillo's list being split into $5,000 chunks.

Rawlings told WFAA Monday that he will only use money raised after December 2, the day he announced he'd seek reelection, to campaign. Every post-December 2 contribution listed is for $5,000 -- the single-election maximum.

Mari Woodlief, the lead consultant to Rawlings' campaign, says that Rawlings has been aware of the vagueness of the ordinance since 2011.

"[Rawlings] has honored the spirit of the campaign finance laws since being elected," she says. "If re-elected it will be a top priority [for Rawlings] to revise these laws and to make them much clearer."

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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