Suddenly Rep.Todd Smith has splashed himself all over TV with well-produced ads in his effort to win the combative District 9 Republican state senate primarty and defeat Rep. Kelly Hancock.
Who is paying for the spots in this expensive media market?
In the most recent reporting period, Smith declared $440,000 from Texans for Insurance Reform, a group that includes many law firms and individual trial attorneys. Some $300,000 was paid directly to Smith's political consultants at Dallas-based Allyn Media to cover the cost of his "television time," according to a filing by the PAC to the Texas Ethics Commission
The PAC includes such high profile donors as personal injury attorney Jim "The Hammer" Adler, also a familar face on television, if less telegenic.
But Hancock's campaign focused on the law firm of Houston attorney Steve Mostyn, a very active and generous Democratic donor. There were other large donations, ranging up to $100,000, but none came close to the $500,000 from the Mostyn Law Firm.
"I don’t think Republican primary voters would apppreciate Todd Smith attacking Kelly Hancock for taking $100,000 in contributions from (homebuilder and big GOP donor) Bob Perry, then within days of that mailing, he takes $400,000 from the biggest Democrat donor in the state," Craig Murphy, Hancock's chief campaign consultant, said Tuesday.
But Smith defended his ties to the interest group.
"Todd Smith has a 15-year record of putting what’s best for his constituents ahead of special interests, and he has supported –- and still supports -– the most conservative tort reform laws in the nation," his campaign said in an emailed response to the Hancock broadside.
"Todd’s support from Texans for Insurance Reform is rooted in the common goal of making sure that a Houston billionaire -– who’s also the state’s biggest supporter of illegal immigrants -– does not have control of this critical senate seat," Smith's campaign said, referring to Bob Perry.
"To date, Bob Perry has contributed more than $225,000 directly to defeat Todd because he knows Todd will work for real immigration reform that helps Texans mitigate the biggest drain on our economy and public services. In addition, Mr. Perry is the largest single contributor to TLR (Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC), which has given Kelly Hancock more than $335,000 to date."
Smith himself had been a recipient of Perry's cash indulgences earlier in his political career.
Asked if Hancock would accept $200,000 from, say, a friend who was a major Democrat donor, Murphy insisted his client would turn down a $400,000 contribution.
A Hancock news release again repeated his campaign's frequently aired allegation that Smith broke a promise not to accept donations from fellow trial lawyers.
Smith told the Star-Telegram he had never made such a pledge, explaining that he had told groups that when he voted for tort reform -- and against his professional colleagues -- they abandoned him for years. But he hadn't said anything about turning down contributions, he added.
Murphy insisted that Smith had indeed made the vow before numerous Republican groups. Asked to provide news reports or videotape or sound recordings of such public statements, the consultant said he didn't possess them.
In November, the primary winner will run against Libertarian Dave "Mac" McElwee, 73, a retired schoolteacher and 24-year Navy veteran from Arlington, and Democrat Pete Martinez, 41, also of Arlington, who is a firefighter and builds wooden sheds, in the heavily Republican constituency that includes chunks of Northeast Tarrant County and western Dallas County, along with a sliver of Denton County. -- Barry Shlachter