This article has been updated.
While the groups lobbying voters to approve three sales tax initiatives this November have raised more than $1 million combined, it’s unclear how much former Councilman Greg Brockhouse has spent on his personal “vote no” campaign.
That’s because Brockhouse, who narrowly lost a mayoral bid last year, has yet to file any campaign finance reports. State law requires financial disclosures from individuals or groups that spend money on efforts to persuade voters.
Earlier this month, he said he thought his spending – “a couple thousand bucks” – was exempt from disclosing direct campaign expenditures, contrary to Election Code. Once someone spends more than $130 in an election, they are required to file a report with the Texas Ethics Commission, according to the agency’s website.
On Friday, however, he said he would file the required report when campaign disclosures are due next week.
Update on Oct. 27: Brockhouse’s campaign finance report is now available on the ethics commission’s website here.
“In the interest of total transparency, I’ll file the expenditures,” Brockhouse said. He consulted with a contact within the ethics commission on Friday after he spoke with the San Antonio Report about his spending and whether he intends to file. “It’s a fair question.”
The ethics commission doesn’t offer legal advice, he said, “[but] the best and safest answer, just to be totally transparent,” is to report the spending.
Between Oct. 15 and 21, he spent at least $1,300 on sponsored posts from his Facebook page The BrockCast regarding politics, the elections, or social issues, according to the social media platform’s Ad Library.
In October, he promoted at least 15 different posts – including videos, images, and graphics – telling voters to vote no on two separate ballot measures that would use the same one-eighth cent sales tax. If approved, the tax would be used for education and job training for the first four years. Then, it would pivot to public transit. Currently, that tax is used for aquifer protection as well as hike and bike trails. Another separate ballot initiative to renew funding for Pre-K 4 SA is not targeted by Brockhouse.
He has spent about $200 at crowdsourced graphic design website Fiverr and less than $50 on robocalls, he said.
As a political consultant himself, he has access to a lot of marketing tools that lower his costs, he added.
It’s unclear if he spent more than $130 on these efforts before Sept. 24, when individuals and groups are required to file their 30-day pre-election reports.
Brockhouse sent a press release on Sept. 23 announcing a “No New Taxes Town Hall” scheduled for Oct. 6 and the formal launch of the campaign. Most of his spending on Facebook regarding the election was in October save for one ad in September to promote the town hall.
Nearly all of his recent Facebook ads have since been deactivated “because the disclaimer doesn’t follow our Advertising Policies,” according to The BrockCast’s ad summary. Brockhouse said the issue had to do with his own user error. The disclaimer clearly says, “paid for by Gregory Vern Brockhouse.” Facebook did not specifically cite how the ads violated its policy.
Regardless of those issues, Brockhouse should know that he has to report this spending, said State Rep. Ray Lopez (D-San Antonio), who represented San Antonio’s District 6 on City Council before Brockhouse was elected to that seat in 2017.
Not knowing the rules, Lopez said, is no excuse.
“The only person that could get away with taking that position would be novice – someone who has never done this before – or somebody who is malicious in their intent,” Lopez said. “I’m not looking to pick a fight with Greg. He and his group of folks … they have every right in the world to any opposition, just like we all do. But he needs to do it in an upfront manner.”
While Brockhouse hasn’t formally filed his candidacy for another shot at the mayor’s office next year, he has said that he will.
Lopez, who is an avid supporter of the public transit initiative, said Brockhouse should be following the rules that “announced candidates” follow by using his current account with the local campaign finance system to track this spending.
“I don’t see any reason for him to hide it,” Lopez said.
The ethics commission only investigates violations of the state’s elections code if it receives a complaint. Lopez said he does not plan on filing a complaint.
“Ray Lopez should focus on trying to pass his new tax and not allege violations before reporting is actually due,” Brockhouse said Friday. “I know the rules and am in compliance and have added disclaimers to be clear on ownership. This is not part of any candidate advocacy campaign and therefore not on my campaign account.”
Brockhouse hasn’t been quiet about his opposition to the ballot measures, but that effort is separate from any other campaign, he said at a recent press conference. He did not say then that he was planning to run for mayor again.
“Right now I’m focused on Nov. 3,” he said during the press conference. “On Nov. 4, we’ll pivot and we’ll talk about the things that matter going forward.”