AUSTIN (KXAN) — Celia Israel is calling on Kirk Watson to denounce the Stand Together Austin Political Action Committee after two campaign ads were released the week prior to early voting.
The ads look at Israel’s history with housing and opposition to a 2021 victim compensation bill that never made the floor. The ads are being scrutinized, even by people who helped pay for them. A consultant for the PAC says they stand by the ads because “the ads are true.”
House Bill 4471
One of the ads references Israel’s remarks on HB-4471. It would have increased some state fees related to nonprofits. The money would have gone to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, which struggled to pull in money during the pandemic.
Israel did indeed oppose that bill in 2021. So, eventually, did one of the bill’s authors after Israel argued it would negatively impact nonprofits. The bill didn’t make it to a floor vote.
“It is beyond offensive for Kirk to attack a survivor of domestic violence like this. Growing up, my dad had a drinking problem, and sometimes he would get violent and start going after Mom. I had to call the police on him on several occasions when I was a kid. Survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault deserve much better than Kirk Watson’s cowardly behavior,” Israel said of the ad.
A spokesperson for Watson said the city does not allow the senator to interact with the PAC and that he is not responsible for the ads.
“The ads are true,” Mykle Tomlinson, a consultant with the PAC, said. “She did kill legislation.”
In the ad, the PAC uses portions of KXAN’s investigation into the Crime Victims Compensation Fund. Our investigation highlighted how slowly money is being distributed from the fund but did not address how much money the fund has.
Our investigation was in no way tied to the bill referenced in the ad.
Demolition Permit Applications
The other ad shows demolition permit applications from the City of Austin that highlight Israel’s work with a housing and design group that does indeed build homes worth millions of dollars here in Austin.
Israel said the claim is “a campaigning tactic to mislead voters,” while Tomlinson said he gathered appraisals and photos of houses before and after they were turned into multimillion dollar homes.
“I knew when I entered this race that I would likely be going up against powerful business interests who have made a fortune off of the status quo. Those powerful interests are wealthy right-wing donors who are not happy that they are finding themselves losing going into this runoff election,” Israel followed.
According to the slate at the end of the ads, the top donors for the PAC include Kilroy Realty LLP, Joe Liemandt and Bryan Sheffield.
PAC sponsor denotes ads
After the ads were released, Carlos Zaffirini denounced them on Twitter. Zaffirini is an Austin healthcare attorney and one of the top donors for the PAC.
“I do not condone it, nor would I have given to a PAC that attacked either candidate’s integrity,” he wrote in part.
According to filings, the treasurer for the Stand Together Austin PAC is Jesus Garza, the city manager of Austin from 1994 to 2002. Senator Kirk Watson served as mayor during that time.