North Texas

Political Action Committee Has Big Money for Certain Dallas City Council Candidates

A political action committee with big money from Dallas business people is helping certain City Council candidates make a final push before Saturday's election.

An East Dallas homeowners association leader is upset about how the PAC is spending its money, and a political science professor said such big spending on City Council races has not been seen in decades.

Records show the PAC called "For Our Community" had $198,322.90 available to spend in the most recent report filed April 28. That report said the PAC spent $194,664.89 in the prior month.

Some of that money paid for fliers delivered in the Buckner Terrace Neighborhood of East Dallas, where Homeowners Association Chairman Korey Mack said he stays out of politics.

So Mack was unhappy to see pictures of himself that he did not approve on those campaign flyers for incumbent Dallas City Council District 7 Member Tiffinni Young.

"People in our neighborhood have called me and tried to take me to task for endorsing a candidate, because that's what it appears like when it hits their mailbox," Mack said.

Young, a first-term council member, has five challengers working to unseat her in Saturday's election. The "For Our Community" PAC is working to keep her in office. The Buckner Terrace flyers for Young disclose they were paid for by the PAC. That support is in addition to whatever work Young might be doing with her own campaign funds.

At last report to the Dallas City Secretary, Young raised about $18,000. A so-called Super PAC like "For Our Community" is not limited to the same rules as Dallas City Council campaign fundraising.

The records show one Dallas businessman made a single PAC donation of $100,000.

Korey Mack ran unsuccessfully for Dallas City Council in 2011. He said individual donations were limited to $1,000 in the city rules.

"I didn't find 100 people to give me a thousand dollars," said Mack. "That would have been great, but I think that's why they put the rule in there, so one person doesn't wield that much influence."

Records show the PAC supports Young, along with Dallas City Council incumbents Casey Thomas, Rickey Callahan, Monica Alonzo and Erik Wilson.

After reviewing the records Thursday, Southern Methodist University political science professor Cal Jillson said the arrangement is a Dallas throwback.

"The thing that strikes me most about this is that this is old Dallas. This used to be the way Dallas worked through the 1930s to the 1960s," Jillson said. "This is an end run around those local campaign finance rules."

The PAC is operated by Allyn Media, which in turn is run by Mari Woodlief, who is also Mayor Mike Rawlings' political consultant.

"She would not be engaging in this activity unless she had the thumbs up," Jillson said. "Mayors like to have City Councils that are to some extent beholden to them. It makes it a lot easier to find their majority."

Records show the PAC also supports District 14 City Council challenger Matthew Wood and opposes City Councilman Philip Kingston. Kingston is an adversary to Rawlings.

Wood has said in the past that support from the PAC was a mixed bag. He did not support everything the PAC did, but it was not under his control.

Rawlings was unavailable for comment Thursday. He was in Austin lobbying lawmakers about the Dallas Police and Fire Pension crisis. Mari Woodlief did not return messages.

Reached by telephone while block walking Thursday morning, Councilwoman Young said she would provide a statement, but no statement was received by Thursday evening.

District 6 incumbent Monica Alonzo has five opponents in Saturday's election. District 8 incumbent Erik Wilson has four opponents, including his predecessor Tennell Atkins. District 3 Councilman Casey Thomas and District 5 Councilman Rickey Callahan each have one opponent Saturday. District 14 Councilman Philip Kingston is also opposed by publisher Kim E. Welch.

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