A Fort Worth citizen has filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission against Fort Worth City Council District 7 candidate Leonard Firestone. The citizen alleges Firestone received an “anonymous campaign contribution” of $10,000 that violates the Texas Election Code, as it came from a campaign that has not filed its finance report.
On Wednesday, Fort Worth Attorney Darren Keyes published a press release in which his client, a city resident, alleges District 7 city council candidate Leonard Firestone reported an “anonymous campaign contribution” on his April 1 campaign finance report. Firestone is running to replace retiring Councilmember Dennis Shingleton.
“Anonymous campaign contributions,” Keyes says, are violations of the Texas Election Code, and a complaint has been filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. At this time, Keyes has chosen not to name his client for their protection.
The contribution in question is $10,000 from the “Paxton Motheral Campaign.”
Paxton Motheral had originally filed to run for the District 7 seat on January 29, but withdrew on February 12—the last day he could do so. On January 21, Motheral appointed Firestone as his campaign treasurer. The same day Motheral withdrew his candidacy, Firestone filed his application to run for the seat and appointed Motheral as his campaign treasurer.
As previously reported by Texas Scorecard, Motheral manages a company that has profited from an economic development agreement with the City of Fort Worth.
As of publication, there is no campaign finance report listed from Motheral on the city secretary’s record of filings from candidates. Texas Scorecard contacted City Secretary Mary Kayser on April 21 and asked if they had received campaign finance reports from Motheral that have not yet been uploaded to the city’s website.
“No, there isn’t anything additional in his file,” she replied. “I will tell you that after the May first election, anyone who is either not elected or doesn’t end up in the runoff, they always get a letter from my office saying, ‘Okay, you’ve done this, and you’re no longer a candidate. Here are your options for what you can do. You have any campaign funds left over? Here’s the report.’”
Kayser said one of the options available for such candidates is to file their final report, due on June 15.
“Firestone’s role as the Paxton Motheral campaign treasurer raises suspicions that the parties conspired to avoid being transparent about the source of the $10,000,” Keyes’ press release reads. “My client hopes Mr. Firestone’s effort to avoid being transparent was negligent and not intentional. But either way, residents are concerned that a candidate for office did not follow simple campaign finance laws.”
He also notes that “over half of Firestone’s reported contributions on his April 1 campaign finance report are from out-of-state donors and special interest PACs.”
Texas Scorecard contacted Keyes, asking what specific part of the Texas Election Code his client alleges is being violated. “My client cites the following provisions of the Election Code, among others, that may have been violated: Section 253.003 Unlawfully Making or Accepting Contribution, 253.005 Expenditure from Unlawful Contribution, and Section 254.001 Recordkeeping Required,” Keyes replied. “Also, a candidate must know the source of each contribution in order to comply with the Section 253.094 prohibition against acceptance of political contributions from corporations and labor organizations.”
Texas Scorecard contacted the Texas Ethics Commission, asking about the rules regarding campaign finance reporting for city council candidates who have withdrawn from the race. No response was received before publication time.
Keyes was asked why his client decided to file this complaint and why District 7 citizens should care. “My client is an intelligent watchdog who cares about transparency in local elections,” he replied. “Citizens have to decide whether transparency in elections is important.”
Texas Scorecard contacted both Firestone and Motheral, asking for a response to the press release. No response was received before publication time.
Firestone has been endorsed by outgoing Mayor Betsy Price and has received campaign contributions from attorney Dee Kelly Jr., the Good Government Fund (GGF), the Texas Progress Fund (TPF), and PSEL Political Action Committees (sources say PSEL stands for Perry, Sid, Ed, and Lee Bass).
Kelly Jr.’s father was considered a “gatekeeper” of local politics and served as an attorney for the powerful Bass brothers. A 1995 D Magazine article explained how deeply the brothers have been intertwined in the operations of Fort Worth and where Kelly fit in. Kelly Jr. is listed as treasurer for all three of the above PACs, and Ed and Sid Bass have contributed to them.
Citizens may view Keyes’ press release below. Early voting in the May 1 election runs April 19-27. Voters may find all District 7 candidates on the city secretary’s website.