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March 04, 2005

Statesman Gets It Wrong Again About "Dream Home Fund"

By Andrew Dobbs

The Austin American-Statesman, a bastion of sensationalism, has seen fit to bash the Texas Democratic Party and its chairman in particular, trying to suggest that doing our job is tantamount to corruption. The paper claims that a $250,000 "dream home fund" was spent up in the pursuit of those not-so-Democratic goals of winning elections and looking professional. They are being disingenuous and sensationalist.

Let's start from the beginning.

In 1999 a 91 year old woman in Dallas, Martha Hughes, died and left her $1.9 million estate to the DNC and TDP. Part of the money was "set aside" at the time for the purpose of buying a permanent headquarters rather than renting one, as we have always done. I put "set aside" in quotes because it was more rhetoric than reality- the money was kept in the same bank account that was drawn from on a regular basis for all mannner of party business. So it wasn't "set aside" at all.

But since then our fundraising has become an even more uphill battle. With no statewides it was tough, when we lost the House in 2002 it became even harder. We were in a catch-22: we had to win some races to raise money, but we had to raise money to win races. What were we supposed to do? Charles Soechting did what he was elected to do: he made a tough decision. This summer we moved from our old offices, which were cozy if a little bit on the funky side, into new offices just across the street that are professional, spacious, much newer and not that much more a month. Our landlord was the same for both places- a great local Democrat named Alfred Stanley- and he is fair and helpful to us. Since we had new, far more professional offices that might just qualify as a "dream home," Charles decided, as he said in the article that "I could watch a party go down or I could step in and make a difference," Soechting said. "I'll bet that Miss Hughes, God rest her soul, is a lot happier winning elections. She'd rather see that than have (the money) spent on a pretty place to hang out."

Not a bad decision. Which do you think the SDEC would be more upset about- losing 5-10 seats in the legislature, 5 in Congress and all the statewides while sitting on $250,000 that an almost wholly different committee voted on 2 years ago; or to spend every penny we could on all of the important races and end up with the first net gain in legislative seats in 32 years, keeping Chet Edwards in Congress and expanding our statewide performance by 4 points in just 2 years? I think the answer is clear.

This money wasn't spent on champagne and strip clubs, it was spent on important stuff. We spent it on legislative campaigns, giving some 5-digit sums of money (and it has paid off in dividends). We spent it on a bus tour of South Texas that rallied thousands and helped us keep at least one Congressman in office and elect two embattled Democrats in open seats. We spent it on our new voter file, which has finally brought us up to speed with the GOP 20 years later- it is state of the art and helped us from losing too much ground on the county level (the only level of government in Texas where we still have a majority, and a significant one at that). And yes, we used it on furniture- not some ostentatious mahogany office fixtures and crystal sculputures or something, but important things for a professional office. We replaced the decades old chairs in our conference room with some nice black leather ones. We replaced the cheap wicker couch in our lobby with a leather couch and chair and long before all of this Charles purchased a leather chair for his desk. All the rest of our furniture is old- come to our offices at 707 Rio Grande in Austin and take a look. We wanted to look just a tad more professional because to be a winner you have to feel like a winner and to feel like a winner you need to look professional. Same reason we don't send candidates out in bermuda shorts and a wife-beater: it looks bad.

So this money was never "set aside" in a meaningful way, it seems as though it was more rhetoric from the former chair than anything else. We moved into a much better office, so we decided that the money would be better used getting 13 votes for Hubert Vo and a few hundred for Mark Strama and a handful for Lupe Valdez (we didn't give her money as far as I know, but Dallas County did benefit from our voter file) rather than buying a fancy new building to house a dying party. But a resurgent and smart Democratic Party doesn't sell newspapers- scandal and heartbreak does. So throw a headline like "Democrats' dream home fund is gone" on a story that cherrypicks its facts and you have a grade A paper-pusher right there. But just like the Barton Springs story and the racial profiling article, they just aren't true. The Statesman might be the worst daily in Texas, and it is all because of this sort of nonsense.

I wanted to close by saying that on January 1 the Texas GOP began their year in their rented offices looking at a $100,000 debt and a net loss in the legislature for the first time since McGovern vs. Nixon. We began in our rented offices in the black and with Hubert Vo, Mark Strama, Rafael Anchia, Marc Veasey, Yvonne Gonzales-Toureilles, Veroncia Gonzales and a number of other great new House members who likely would not be here (Rafael and Veasey had no general election opposition) without the $250,000 Mrs. Hughes gave us. The real scandal isn't that we spent this money, its that we'd ever surrender a single available penny to anything other than winning races.

That's our business, and business is good.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at March 4, 2005 09:32 AM | TrackBack


gee i dunno andrew....your sycophancy for charles seems boundless.

i too once worked for soechting and watched him trash everbody, throw a shit fit at quail creek country club, refuse to reimburse me for my expenses incurred on his behalf, turn his back on hispanic campaign workers, be AWOL for the entire election season he was hays county chair, be counter productive when he did show, and never raise a penny for candidates or the hays county party.

hell we organized the entire hays county dem party around him.

we used to say "ignore him alone and he will go away" well he did ..to the state party chair.

not exactly what we had in mind.

he even trashed his rep Pat Rose verty publicly becuase Pat voted his conscience and aginst soechting pet interest.

did he ever apologize for his actions in hays county?....

no..we're still waiting

tim kaastad
former hays county campaign coordinator

Posted by: tim kaastad at March 4, 2005 12:03 PM

Just so everyone will know, Tim Kaastad was the guy who repeatedly showed up intoxicated to Hays County events and has been a serial Soechting-slanderer in the past. Talk to people who were there who aren't drunks and they'll tell you Kaastad is full of shit and that CES was a great chair.

I seem to remember that for a while you had an anti-Soechting site up with comments and after almost all of them were people defending Charles against your ludicrous accusations you took down the comments feature. Great move, Kaastad.

Everyone feel free to ignore this punk.

Posted by: Andrew Dobbs at March 4, 2005 12:18 PM

I ditto to what Andrew said readers.

Posted by: Karl-T at March 4, 2005 12:27 PM

I've your talking about money from the Democratic Caucus, I think your commentary is right on. But before we are all blinded by brilliance, exactly what did the State Party give to the Hubert Vo campaign (aside from a voter database we did not use, simply because our own was better). Just wanting to know exactly who got Hubert those 16 votes. . . .

Posted by: Bill at March 5, 2005 01:12 PM
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