Houston Corporate Tentacle Map: County Judge & Commissioners

As hurricane season creeps back into our lives, residents are becoming more and more concerned that there hasn’t been much of an immediate plan for this hurricane season. Especially since Hurricane Harvey has left so many people still rebuilding.

RELATED: Houston DSA Continues to Gut Houses Nine Months After Harvey

Some questions that come to mind…

Why weren’t our elected officials strong on the flood issue for the Tax Day Flood, Memorial Day Flood, and Hurricane Ike?
Would proper flood planning for those occurrences have served as a blueprint for Hurricane Harvey and future hurricanes? Which communities will the 15 point plan actually help and will it turn into a slush fund for developers? It will require a $2.5 billion flood infrastructure bond, to be voted on Aug. 25.
Why are developers being allowed to build on flood plains?

RELATED: Houston Approves Plan to Build 900 Homes in Flood Plain

In this corporate tentacle map, we will be looking at the 2017–2018 campaign finance reports for county commissioners Rodney Ellis, Jack Morman, Steve Radack, Jack Cagle, and county judge, Ed Emmett.

For some pieces of this research, we will go back further in time. I will note donations to both parties.

Campaign finance reports for county commissioners and judge can be found here. City contracts can be found here. Mayor and city council campaign finance reports can be found here. Here’s Transparency Texas and Texas Ethics Commission to search PACs. Using a culmination of these tools is how I collected and organized this information. It’s important to remember that campaign finance reports aren’t always informative.

It is important to note that according to Texas Realty Data, land value went up this year in the Gulf Coast region despite accounting for Hurricane Harvey. The houses that were effected by the disaster are worthless, but the land value did go up.

RELATED: Houston-Area Officials Approved a Plan for Handling a Natural Disaster — Then Ignored It

It’s also important to note there are overlaps with the donors being presented here with research into 2016–2018 campaign finance reports, the donors — largely developers — are found in the mayor and city council’s reports and even the school board’s reports. So if you have been following my corporate maps, dear reader, don’t be surprised to see more of the same corporate entities.

For ease of use, corporate entities will be in alphabetical order.

RELATED: Houston: Mayor Appoints Retired Shell Oil President for Harvey Clean-Up

Allen Boone Humphries Robinson, LLP

The law firm does not have open contracts with the city, however, they practice public law and public finance of infrastructure. Their clients construct, finance, and operate the public water, sewer, drainage, road, and park facilities.

They also represent developers.

They have also donated $2,500 to Morman and $5,000 to Ellis.

This law firm has donated a total of $22,750 to mayor and city council.

They have also donated $10,000 to pro-bond, Lift Up Houston PAC. You can see where Lift Up Houston PAC has donated here.

Gree Pagan, attorney with this firm, has contributed $4,000 to the HOME PAC. This PAC is covered more in-depth a little later in this article.

American Council of Engineering Companies of Houston (ACEC)

This group is comprised of over 100 member companies representing civil, geotechnical, structural and MEP engineering firms. They use ACEC Houston PAC to contribute to elected officials.

Over the last three years, this PAC has contributed a total of $40,000 to county judge and commissioners. It has also contributed a total of $61,474.17 to mayor and city council.

Emmett received $15,000; Morman received $10,000; Radack received $10,000; Ellis received $5,000; and Turner received $16,994.93. Review the full break down of who got how much here.

Who are the donors of this PAC?

CobbFendley, which you will learn more about in the “C” section of this article, contributed $7,000, under Dale Conger, an engineer.

Klotz Associates, which you will learn more about later in the article, contributed $6,100 to this PAC.

Binkley and Barfield, which you will learn more about later in the article, contributed $6,100 to this PAC.

Dannenbaum Engineering, which you will learn more about later in the article, contributed $5,250 to this PAC.

David Eastwood, president of Geotech Engineering, which you will also find him under HOME PAC later in the article, contributed $4,000 to this PAC on top of making individual donations.

Raviraj Yanamandala, engineer at Geotest Engineering, contributed $4,000 to this PAC, and $10,000 to Radack.

Giti Zarinkelk, listed as engineer at Zarinkelk Engineering Services — which note the same last name — contributed $700 to this PAC on top of $10,000 to Cagle, $5,000 to Emmett, and $5,000 to Morman.

You look at the entire PAC breakdown here.

Andrews & Kurth Kenyon LLP

This firm has five open contracts with the city, and they have so many areas of practice representing many industries from oil companies to real estate and everything in between.

This firm has donated a total of $40,000 to county commissioners and judge. Morman received $10,000, Ellis received $20,000, and Emmett received $10,000.

This firm has donated a total of $13,000 to mayor and city council, giving the mayor $10,000 and an attorney from there, Jonathan Day, gave the mayor $1,000.

This firm donated a total of $5,500 to the school board.

This firm has donated $20,000 to the pro-bond, Lift Up Houston PAC. You can see where Lift Up Houston PAC has donated here.

Binkley & Barfield, Inc.

This is a full-service Civil Engineering firm has three open contracts with the city and they offer a range of services including Utility Engineering, Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE), Power, Surveying, Transportation, Structural, Traffic, Public Infrastructure, Land Development, and Construction Management.

The president, Larry Barfield, and CEO, James Brett Binkley, have done all the donating to elected officials on behalf of the company. Mind you, sometimes Binkley will put down James Binkley, James B. Binkley, or Brett Binkley, and both of them will regularly leave out their occupation and company on campaign finance reports.

Cagle received a total of $10,000.

Emmett has received a total of $5,000.

Ellis has received a total of $7,000.

Morman has received a total of $5,000. In total the county judge and commissioners have received $27,000 from Binkley and Barfield.

Mayor Turner has received a total of $7,500.

Take a look at which PACs Binkley and Barfield are contributing to, here.

Branch Group

Did not find contracts with the city.

Branch Group owns three companies: Branch, G.J. Hopkins, Inc, and Branch Civil.

Instead of breaking down each company and what they do, below is a Bloomberg profile. The CEO, Theldon R. Branch III, did all the donating on the company’s behalf. Read his Bloomberg profile, here. I include this link because it lists the different Houston committees he was on.

From Bloomberg:

“The Branch Group, Inc. provides construction services to public and private sector clients primarily in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The company offers construction management, design-build, general contracting, and preconstruction services; and tailored guidance/consulting and management services ranging from the conception of the vision to the occupancy of the building and beyond. It also provides construction services for heavy highways, airport runways, site development, energy, landfills, dams, and reservoirs. In addition, the company offers heavy highway, site development, and concrete paving construction services; and contract mechanical, electrical, and plumbing services, as well as commercial maintenance services. The Branch Group, Inc. was formerly known as Branch & Associates, Inc. and changed its name to The Branch Group, Inc. in November 1986.”

Branch contributed $5,000 to Emmett.

Branch contributed $2,500 to Cagle.

Branch contributed $5,000 to Ellis.

Branch contributed a total of $11,000 to mayor and city council.

HISD Trustee Wanda Adams received $1,000 from Branch.

Branch has contributed $2,531.94 to Across the Track PAC which has funneled money to Wanda Adams, Sylvester Turner, and Amanda Edwards aside from funneling $5,000 most recently to the pro-bond Lift Up Houston PAC.

BRH-Garver Construction, L.P.

BRH has four open contracts with the city of Houston. According to their website, they have been completing complex civil projects for the last 40 years and they solve construction industry challenges. They are members of the Houston Contractors Association, which you will learn more about when we get to the “H” section.

Mike Garver (C.M. Garver) is the CEO of this company, but you wouldn’t know it from some of the campaign finance reports because his occupation or company isn’t always listed.

Garver donated $2,500 to Ellis.

Garver donated $2,500 to Morman, but did not list his occupation or company.

Garver donated a total of $32,700 to all of the mayor and city council, ignoring party lines for corporate interest.

Garver donated $700 to HISD Trustee Elizabeth Santos, but after the research was published she messaged me and said she would return the money.

Looks like Garver has also created ENVIRO PAC, to stick $55,000 in to funnel some (not all) money to two Republican campaigns.

CobbFendley

CobbFendley has eight open contracts with the city of Houston. They are licensed and registered to perform civil engineering and land surveying services in multiple states.

To view their projects, click here.

This corporate entity has used their PAC to contribute a total of $45,500 to Morman and Ellis.

Morman received $10,000 and Ellis received $35,500.

CobbFendley has contributed $14,850 to mayor and city council.

CobbFendly has used their PAC to contribute to Texas Future PAC, Lift UP Houston PAC, Texans for Dan Patrick, and Texans for Greg Abbott. There are other PACs, but for now these seem the most notable because we see this corporate entity contributing to both representatives of parties.

Dannenbaum Engineering

Did not find open contracts with the city. Per their website this firm plans and designs “all types of infrastructure,” public infrastructure, hydrology and hydraulics, land development, surface transportation, airports, ports and harbors.

James D. (Jim) Dannenbaum, President/CEO of Dannenbaum Engineering, has contributed a total of $65,000 to county judge and county commissioners.

Ellis received $30,000.

Emmett received $25,000.

Cagle received $10,000.

This corporate entity contributed a total of $42,000 to the mayor and city council.

James and Shirley Dannenbaum have contributed to these PACs: Texas Future PAC, Lift UP Houston PAC, Texans for Dan Patrick, Sylvia Garcia, Texans for Greg Abbott, and Friends of Larry Taylor. Type their name into this search bar and see how they are donating to both parties.

RELATED: Just In Time for Tropical Wave: Harris County Flood Control Announces Near-Real-Time Inundation Mapping

Haynes & Boone, LLP

No open contracts with city.

From website:

“Haynes and Boone, LLP is one of the American Lawyer top 100 law firms, with more than 600 lawyers in 15 offices and 40 major legal practices. We are among the largest firms based in the United States. Our growth has been driven by our client service strengths, especially our problem-solving acumen and our ability to collaborate with clients.”

Their practices include work with real estate and government.

This law firm contributed $1,000 to Morman and $10,000 to Ellis.

This law firm also contributed $13,000 to mayor and city council.

Houston Apartment Association Better Gov’t Fund (HAA)

No contracts with the city because they are an association that represents apartments (sounds like anti-rent control fund to me, but that’s my opinion).

From their website:

“HAA’s represents 824 owner/management companies and 918 product/service supplier companies. With more than 611,000 apartment homes in more than 2,900 apartment communities HAA represents over 90 percent of the Houston and surrounding areas apartments.”

HAA contributed $2,500 to Emmett and $1,000 to Ellis.

HAA contributed $26,000 to mayor and city council for 2016–2017 campaign finance reports, however, if you review the last three years of contributions it adds up well over $40,000 across party lines.

They contributed to Houston elected officials at the local, state, and federal level.

This PAC has contributed $244,942 to the Texas Apartment Association PAC, and $25,000 to Lift Up Houston PAC.

Click here to see who has been donating to their committee. Spoiler alert, it’s high end condo developers like Camden, real estate management companies, and construction companies. This PAC has $103,430.41 cash on hand.

HOME PAC

Greater Houston Builders Association is exactly what it sounds like: an association for builders and developers. Search their membership here to see who’s part of it and who isn’t.

From their website:

HOME-PAC directs financial support of the homebuilding industry and is committed to protecting housing affordability and consumer choices. Through your contribution, we are able to pool our resources and unite to support the best qualified, pro-housing candidates for local and state office. GHBA’s HOME-PAC empowers our members to help shape the political environment and elect candidates who will support our industry’s goal to provide Texans the opportunity to realize the dream of homeownership.
Changes in state law or regulations could be detrimental to your business. Your contribution to GHBA’s HOME-PAC is an investment in your company’s future and the future of our industry. It is one of the most affordable options for political involvement.

The county judge and commissioners received a total of $19,000 from this PAC over the course of three years.

Of that total, Emmett received $7,500; Radack received $6,000; Morman received $3,000; and Ellis received $2,500.

The mayor and city council received a total of $96,274.99 from this PAC over the course of three years, with $39,200 of that going to Turner.

Who are some of donors who contribute to this PAC? Let’s start with Weekley Properties.

David Weekley, owner of Weekley Properties (or Homes depending on which campaign finance research tool one uses), contributed $30,000 to the PAC over the course of three years. David and Richard Weekley also contribute individually to the mayor and city council. Richard Weekly contributed $1,000 to Morman and $1,000 to Emmett recently.

James R. Holcomb, president of Holcomb Properties, contributed $92,500 to the PAC over a course of three years. Holcomb does not make a habit of contributing individually to politicians, his record shows he mainly throws a lot of money into PACs that are then used to contribute to politicians. Type his name in the search engine here and see for yourself.

Edward Taravella, president of TARACORP, is quoted saying “he hasn’t seen any credible studies showing that development has sent more runoff into the reservoirs. ‘Things people say are largely anecdotal,’ he said [in regards to Houston’s Reservoirs]” in a ProPublica article co-published with the Texas Tribune.

RELATED: Everyone Knew Houston’s Reservoirs Would Flood — Except for the People Who Bought Homes Inside Them

TARACORP, the firm Taravella is president of, per their website: is a commercial real estate investment, development and brokerage firm, specializing in land and residential development since 1995.

Taravella has contributed $4,000 to the PAC.

Aside from contributing to the ACEC PAC discussed earlier David Eastwood, president of Geotech Engineering, has contributed $4,000 to this PAC while also individually contributing $5,000 to Cagle and $5,000 to Morman.

This PAC has contributed to Texans for Dan Patrick, Sylvia Garcia, We are Pearland PAC, Keep Montgomery County Moving PAC, among many others you can find here.

RELATED: City’s New 500-Year-Plus-2 Flood Ordinance Will Be Severe, and in Many Instances Unnecessary, Burden on some of the City’s Most Disadvantaged Neighborhoods

Houston Contractors Association PAC (HOUCON PAC)

This PAC is from the Houston Contractors Association. Per their website, when the association was first formed in 1956, “their goal was to form a group that would benefit the city of Houston civil construction industry.”

“For over 60 years, HCA has worked in partnership with the City of Houston, Harris County Public Infrastructure Division, the Harris County Flood Control District, the Harris County Toll Road Authority, the Port of Houston Authority, METRO and many other city and local government authorities to provide the best possible civil construction services at fair prices for taxpayers in the Greater Houston area. We look forward to continuing and building upon these relationships over the next upcoming years as we work together to make our city a better place to live.”

The county judge and commissioners received a total of $27,500 from this PAC over the course of three years. Of that, Emmett received $20,000, Ellis received $5,000, and Radack received $2,500.

The mayor and city council received a total of $15,500 over the course of three years with $10,000 of that going to Turner.

In the donors list of this PAC you will find BRH Garver Construction among many other familiar names.

This PAC has contributed to Lift Up Houston PAC and to Houston Vision 2020.

Klotz PAC

RPS/Klotz has 10 open contracts with the city.

Even though Klotz Associates has been rebranded as RPS, the Klotz PAC is still being used in campaign finance reports.

From website:

“For more than 30 years, the infrastructure arm of RPS has operated with an emphasis on public works and infrastructure projects across Texas. With a staff of 165 professionals in Austin, Dallas, Frisco, Houston and San Antonio, the firm provides transportation, traffic, ITS, water and sewer, aviation, drainage, land development and environmental engineering services.”

This PAC has contributed $65,000 to county judge and commissioners.

Cagle received $20,000.

Emmett received $5,000.

Morman received $10,000.

Ellis received $15,000.

Radack received $20,000. It’s important to note that I did not find the PAC in his campaign finance reports. I found out he received money from the PAC through Transparency Texas.

The mayor and city council received a total of $4,000 from this PAC.

Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP

Three open contracts with the city, and each of those contracts possibly has an employee as a subcontractor.

The interesting thing about this law firm is that Darryl B. Carter, an attorney at Linebarger, has done some of his donating under his employer, Linebarger, even though he is not listed as an attorney on their website. His LinkedIn checks out and I called the firm — he’s employed by Linebarger.

Screenshot of Carter’s LinkedIn profile

However, Carter has also contributed while listing “Law Office of Darryl B. Carter” as his employer which is also listed as a subcontractor for each of the three Linebarger contracts they currently have with the city. A quick Google search reveals his website.

His website says: “Having been associated with the firms of Law Office of William E. King, P.C. and Linebarger, Goggan, Blair, Sampson, Mr. Carter has practiced in the areas of commercial litigation, business bankruptcy, and public law.”

Carter’s client list on his website includes Linebarger.

Both of Carter’s contributions as working with Linebarger and as Law Office of Darryl B. Carter happened in the same year.

Also note that on the Texas Bar website, Carter’s “primary practice location” is Linebarger’s address.

Screenshot of one of the three City contracts with Linebarger listing Law Office of Darryl B. Carter as subcontractor: https://houston.mwdbe.com/

Their services include the collection of delinquent property taxes, traffic citations, parking tickets, and tolls. They also offer Homestead Exemption Audits, property tax collection software, and property value study appeals for Texas school districts.

Between Linebarger and Carter, county judge and commissioners have received a total of $62,000 in campaign contributions.

Cagle received $1,000 from Carter and $10,000 from Linebarger.

Emmett received $1,000 from Carter and $10,000 from Linebarger.

Morman received $1,000 from Carter and $10,000 from Linebarger.

Radack received $10,000 from Linebarger.

Ellis received $4,000 from Carter and $15,000 from Linebarger.

Between Linebarger and Carter, the mayor and city council received $38,093.75; contributing to all of them except Laster.

Between Linebarger and Carter, the school board received a total of $9,000.

Carter contributes to the Lift Up Houston PAC.

Linebarger has contributed to Texas Legislative Black Caucus PAC, Lift UP Houston PAC, Sylvia Garcia, Texans for Dan Patrick, Texans for Greg Abbott, and county Republican and Democratic parties across the state. Click here, type in Linebarger, and see the 601 contributions.

Recap on the questions from earlier in the article.

Why weren’t our elected officials strong on the flood issue for the Tax Day Flood, Memorial Day Flood, and Hurricane Ike?
Would proper flood planning for those occurrences have served as a blueprint for Hurricane Harvey and future hurricanes? Which communities will the 15 point plan actually help and will it turn into a slush fund for developers? It will require a $2.5 billion flood infrastructure bond, to be voted on Aug. 25.
Why are developers being allowed to build on flood plains?
“Things are going swimmingly” by Levi Rosen, www.levirosen.com