Super-PAC Targets… Precinct-Level Primary Race for Constable?

<a href="http://www.adanballesteros.com/">Ballasteros for Constable</a>


In May, we told you about Liberty for All, the libertarian super-PAC founded by a 21-year-old college kid from Nacogdoches, Texas. Last month, the group spent big bucks to help win a Republican House primary in Kentucky. The final tally: $600,000 in television ads, a 15-point victory, and a big fat quote on the front page of the New York Times. Preston Bates, the group’s executive director, told me he hopes to raise $10 million this summer and grow into the closest thing the “freedom” movement has to a genuine political party.

The group’s next move, however, is a little bit hard to figure. The Austin American-Statesman reports that Liberty for All is throwing its weight around in a place where, it’s safe to say, super-PACs rarely stray—the Democratic primary for 2nd precinct constable in Travis County, Texas. Challenger Michael Cargill is a gay African-American gun store owner, but as Liberty for All’s Bates makes clear, the race is really about incumbent Adan Ballasteros. Per the Statesman story:

The Libertarian-leaning political action committee has spent more than $35,000 in its first few days on this campaign, more than double what the two candidates raised leading up to Tuesday’s primary, and plans to spend more before the July 31 runoff…

“What’s interesting about Mike’s race is not necessarily who (Cargill) is. … It’s who he’s running against,” Preston Bates, Liberty For All’s executive director, said in an interview with the American-Statesman. In a news release, Bates called Ballesteros “the poster-bureaucrat for everything that’s wrong with the political landscape in America.”

What’s more, both Cargill and Liberty for All are launching an identical line of attack. Cargill, citing Ballestero’s 15-year-old charge for allegedly smuggling cocaine into the United States (the charges were ultimately dropped), has dubbed the incumbent “the cocaine constable.” According to the Statesman, Liberty for All “[o]rganizers sent a mailer to voters last week calling Ballesteros ‘the cocaine constable,’ saying he is ‘as corrupt as they come’ and showing a picture of a woman appearing to snort cocaine through a $100 bill.” This is perfectly legal—super-PACs are forbidden from coordinating with the candidates they support, but there’s nothing in the current law to stop an organization from parroting a candidate word-for-word.

The larger question, I suppose, is what the heck is a million-dollar super-PAC doing in a constable primary election in Austin?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.