in Houston, Texas
Planned Parenthood of North Texas PAC fined $3,000 for campaign finance violations
Thursday, Aug 26, 2010, 10:56AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
20-dollar bills

The Texas Ethics Commission has fined Cary Jennings, the campaign treasurer for Planned Parenthood of North Texas' political action committee, $3,000 for failing to disclose spending $26,695 to support four political candidates in the November, 2008 state elections.

The Ethics Commission also found 
Planned Parenthood of North Texas Action Fund Political Committee had either failed to report or made mistakes with political contribution and expenditure totals on more than 17 monthly reports required by state law.

The action fund accepted the fine without protest and has improved its reporting procedures, fund director Kathryn Allen said.

The political action committee in a November 2008 report said it spent $26,695 for mass mailings the previous month. However, the report failed to say the mailings were made in support of Wendy Davis, who was running for state Senate and Dan Barrett, Carol Kent and Chris Turner, who were running for state House seats, according to the Ethics Commission findings.

The following month, the political action committee reported spending $15,410 in one day to the same company for a blitz of campaign telephone calls on behalf of Davis, Kent, Turner and Robert Miklos, who was running for the House. The Commission took note that this disclosure of candidate support was not reflected on the report's cover page.

The committee filed 17 corrected campaign finance reports on Sept. 14, 2009.

Allen said the committee made procedural errors in reporting because it is a relatively new group, inexperienced in proper campaign finance filing.

"This has all been a learning process for us," Allen said. "We have procedures in place now that should prevent us from making these kinds of human errors. I'm glad to have this behind us."

Davis, Kent, Turner and Miklos won their legislative races, while Barrett lost to Republican physician Mark Shelton.
 
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 3:58 p.m. Aug. 26 to include comments from action fund director Kathryn Allen that were received after initial publication of the story.
 
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org.

Photo of money by flickr user athrasher, used via a Creative Commons license.
Comments
Not even worth the read
Thursday, 08/26/2010 - 03:12PM

So the PPNT PAC accurately discloses how much money they spent on behalf of candidates but didn't list the specific names of each candidate. Ok, I get the rules require you to list the names of each candidate and they corrected that and paid a small fine for their technical oversight. But how is this interesting news? It was pretty darn obvious who PPNT was supporting considering the mass mailings had the name of the candidate on them along with the PPNT name and logo.

I can understand why the form requires the candidate list, but this doesn't seem like something worthy of a fine. I know Texas has a multibillion dollar deficit and is desperate for revenue but rooting through the filings of non-profits looking for technicalities seems like a serious waste of taxpayer money. I wonder how many tens of thousands of dollars Texas spent on lawyers and civil servants in order to recover $3000 from PPNT? This looks to be more about a few government officials wanting to screw with Planned Parenthood than any sort of wrong doing on PPNT's side.

William B. Elmer
Tuesday, 08/31/2010 - 04:45PM

The comment immediately below mine assumes it was the TEC who brought about the fine on PPNT PAC. That is not the case. A Sworn Complaint was filed with the Texas Ethics Commission by my organization, Texas Ethics Advisory Board. The TEC is required to investigate such complaints. They have no choice in the matter. Nevertheless, the TEC was so disturbed by the reckless behavior of this particular PAC, they discovered other breaches we did not bring to their attention. The amount of the fine reflects their egregious breaking of Texas election law.

But guess what! The $3,000 fine was not their only fine in this case. Perhaps Mark missed the additional fine of $500 on PPNT PAC's Ms. Mary Pat Higgins. Her fine is listed just below that of Mr. Cary Jennings on the TEC "Sworn Complaint Open Orders" page.

One last thing. If the writer of the comment below mine didn't find it worth the read, why did he waste his/her time wring a comment, huh?

James
Sunday, 09/05/2010 - 11:59AM

I agree, with all the effort expended the fine should have been larger!! As I understand PP recevies federal funding and donations from foundations and charities such as the Johhny Carson Foundation and Susan G Koman. Is this ethical use of taxpayer and private money?

a new strategy against Planned Parenthood
Saturday, 09/25/2010 - 12:31PM

As a PPHood supporter, I just received in the mail a letter from Mr Elmer describing the fines against the Gulf Coast chapter. The letter suggested I might not want to donate to an entity that has to spend so much money on attorneys to defend itself against Mr Elmer's PAC.

Concerned, I looked further to find that Planned Parenthood is new to this sort of political support, had made mistakes in their formal filings but did nothing secretive, accepted the fines and made the necessary changes to their procedures. I also found that Mr Elmer is a self-appointed ethics arbiter with the mission to discredit Planned Parenthood and harass individual supporters. Think I'll send them some more money right now.

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