In an homage to Greg Wythe’s Empty Lot Primary of yard signs a gogo, I thought it might be interesting to see which City Council candidates aren’t going hungry this election cycle.
Every candidate knows at some point he or she has to pay for food. Volunteers need snacks and water, donors want hors d’ouvres at house parties, political clubs host lunches, and sometimes the best place to meet with campaign staff and strategists is at House of Pies at 1:00 in the morning. Needless to say, expenditures for food & beverage inevitably end up on campaign finance reports.
I am planning a more in-depth analysis of campaign finance reports in the coming days as the rest of the reports come in and I get them in a more user-friendly format from the City Secretary. I had intended from the beginning to make a special point to look at food & beverage expenditures as part of evaluating the spending priorities of candidates, and it looks like this cycle is not going to disappoint.
It appears as though Eric Dick is in the lead by a long way. When a first-time candidate drops a 228-page finance report, it’s going to get noticed. I haven’t seen a report that long since Mayor Annise Parker’s 2009 campaign. The differences between Dick’s and Parker’s reports, however, are quite significant.
Dick’s report contains more than 200 pages of Schedule G expenditures – campaign expenditures from personal funds. Schedule G expenditures are common, especially when a candidate chooses to (or is forced to) self-fund the campaign. Candidates can elect to seek reimbursement for Schedule G or not, but doing so requires indicating such on the report.
All said, Dick is leading the pack with a whopping 455 entries for food & beverage. Keep in mind the reporting period is only 180 days long. That’s an average of 2.5 expenditures per day at restaurants or bars, but what is so fascinating is that he is seeking reimbursement for very few of them, and by very few, I mean maybe a dozen or so. A very large number of them also appear to be single-person meals, not food for a group or event. It’s not really problematic, because he’s spending his own money, not his donor’s money, but it is still very strange to see a report like this.
I have not yet done the full math, but getting about 50 pages in put the food & beverage total at almost $4,000, so I’m going to go out on a limb and estimate his food & beverage expenses somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000, or about 20-25% of his total campaign expenditures.
Now that’s what I call getting out-Whataburgered.
(To be fair, Whataburger only appears once on his report, but he does seem to be fond of Tex-Mex and Chinese)
For comparison, none of the other candidates whose reports are available come anywhere even remotely close to Dick’s food & beverage totals, and my guess would be none of them are all that intent on trying to catch up.