Politicians violating their oaths of office and misusing public resources can be a particularly aggravating aspect of political involvement. If there’s one thing that Austin attorney John Goldstone despises, it’s publicly-funded government corruption.
While an aversion to corruption is one (for the most part) commonly shared, John recalls it being ingrained in him at an early age:
“During the Nixon years, my parents were die-hard Democrats,” Goldstone starts. “I channeled their anger at the misuse of executive power by the president before, during and after the Watergate break-in. I started cutting out articles and reading the in-depth analysis of what was going on. I have been hooked into politics and studying the Constitution ever since.”
Goldstone has been involved in a myriad of interesting movements, both inside and out of his career as an attorney, but the central driving forces have always been the same: transparency and liberty.
“During the Bush years, I became involved in the anti-war movement (Iraq), owing to what sounded like misrepresentations from the Administration as the justification for sending our armed forces into harm’s way,” Goldstone says.
He also spent some time getting peripherally involved combating the use of racial profiling by the DPS and in policing the infamous local, state, and federal drug task forces.
Nowadays, the majority of his political involvement is spent combatting misrepresentations by municipalities seeking to pile on debt. It’s unfortunately commonplace for bureaucrats to publish sugarcoated and flat-out false numbers in pushing a bond proposal—Goldstone loves calling them out.
“In 2013, the City of Austin put a bond proposition on the ballot for ‘affordable housing.’ As a real estate attorney and real estate broker, I was familiar with the concept of borrowing, so when I looked at the City’s materials regarding the bond and I found the sole financial disclosure to the taxpayers was sparse.”
The rhetoric used by the city was misleading, at best. “It is not anticipated that the tax rate will increase due to the issuance of this bond,” officials claimed.
The fact that disclosure requirements for government are sparse infuriated Goldstone.
“I got angry. Seeing this completely inadequate financial disclosure, I started screaming at the top of my lungs that we, the taxpayers, were being misled,” he reiterated. “The type of financial disclosure that is required of lenders on a home mortgage transaction is a ½ inch thick stack of papers showing you exactly how much the loan will cost monthly and over the life of the loan. I realized we were being misled and duped by all of the bonding authorities and that I was the only one who saw it.”
It could be said that this revelation inspired in him a duty to stay involved and to inform others in order to impact change. In 2015, Goldstone learned firsthand the importance of every vote – when a similarly misleading bond campaign that he had organized tirelessly against failed by less than 2 percent. Less than 1,000 votes out of a total 73,000 shut down a $300 million courthouse renovation in Travis County, a huge victory for taxpayers.
While, unfortunately, not every fight will result in a victory for taxpayers, it is nonetheless a win to have advocates such as Goldstone around – willing to call out dishonest politicians and bureaucrats and ask the hard questions when it comes to public debt. That, in and of itself, is a win for transparency and by extension, personal liberty.
When he’s not causing trouble for bureaucrats and politicians or practicing law, Goldstone splits his time between Austin and Samara, Costa Rica, playing golf and rocking out on his guitar.