A hilariously terrible site popped up this week to smear Natalie Gauldin, the City Council Candidate challenging Leslie Pool in Austin’s District 7. One of the quotes on the front page is “The only neighborhood organizations that have expressed support for Natalie are front groups for developers like FAN and AURA”. This is not true, as anyone who is familiar with those organizations knows. Both groups mention affordability in the first breath of describing what they are about, and their work so far has shown that.
It’s also worth noting that “developers” are not universally good or bad people. Lots of people work in the real estate industry, many of them probably care very much about making Austin a better city and more affordable. There’s plenty of examples on Twitter and elsewhere.
That said, what about Leslie Pool’s association with the real estate industry? A quick look at the donors in her most recent campaign finance filing shows that there are actually several real estate or construction interests that have given money to her campaign:
HNTB Holdings PAC of Kansas City, Missouri has spent nearly $600k this election cycle, with 60% of that spending going to Republican candidates. The donors appear to be mostly construction interests with a focus on transportation.
Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam PAC is also a construction interest representing Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam, a company that has built several highways around Texas and the country. All the data I can find shows them giving to Republican candidates previously.
Perhaps most importantly, her campaign treasurer is a Vice President at a massive commercial real estate company.
There’s more individual donors from the real estate and construction industry, so feel free to browse for yourself. The point here isn’t that some real estate interests support Pool, but that a narrative has been allowed to develop that Gauldin and her supporters are owned by “developers”, whatever that means. The Austin Chronicle continued this garbage portrayal of Gauldin being in the pocket of developers by endorsing Pool and accusing Gauldin of supporting “developer plans to a fault”.
Again, working in the real estate industry industry does not make you shady. However, I would argue that local city council candidates receiving money from well funded national PACs does deserve more scrutiny. There is only one PAC that has disclosed spending on behalf of Gauldin and it’s Equity Austin, a local PAC that advocates for affordability in the city. Perhaps if the Chronicle did a bit more research into their endorsements they would know what the candidates actually stand for.