Who's behind Mayor Turner's PAC to defeat HISD Prop 1?

30-Day Prior to Election Report

Last month we posted about the fact that Mayor Turner’s Prop 1 PAC called Houstonians for Stronger Schools was operating under the cover of dark money — essentially they bought $50,000 in services on credit without taking receipt of any actual donations.

Yesterday, new campaign finance reports required to be filed eight days prior to an election were published on Houston ISD’s website, and we’re getting our first look at some of the money backing the unsubstantiated “Shut Down Schools?” fear campaigns.

In the report, we see the Mayor’s PAC has spent $104,000 and raised just $50,000 which means we only have visibility into about 40% of the money being spent so far. Of that 40%, the vast majority comes from people or companies in the lobbying, real estate and construction businesses. And almost half of the money comes from just two companies which each gave $10,000 donations.

The first is a public infrastructure construction company, Dannenbaum Engineering Corporation

Dannenbaum has a long history of business with the City of Houston including being awarded a $750,000 contract last year for a storm drainage project. A website for Greater Houston Water Partners, a joint venture building a $1.2 billion water purification plant for the City of Houston, lists Dannenbaum as a part of the project team and describes the City of Houston as Dannenbaum’s “number one client by volume.” 

The second company is a construction company, Satterfield & Pontikes Construction.

Satterfield & Pontikes Construction has done a significant amount of recent business with Houston ISD including working on the construction and renovation of three high schools in the 2012 bond program: Wisdom, Bellaire and Waltrip.

Houston ISD’s check register shows payments to Satterfield & Pontikes totaling $68,099,513.19 since August of 2014 — $68.1 million dollars over the last two years.

The $104,000 spent so far puts Prop 1 on track to potentially be one of the most expensive HISD elections in recent years. Big corporate donors with ties to the city and the school district make us question whether opponents of Proposition 1 are really concerned about students and teachers or instead interested in taxes and favors.