Seeking re-election, Austin City Council Member Sheri Gallo says in a mailer to voters in West Austin’s District 10 that challenger Alison Alter “exploited a campaign loophole to obtain over $64,000 in public dollars to fund her campaign.”

Alter, an adviser to philanthropic donors, who is making her first bid for office, received $64,171.19 in public financing toward her runoff campaign after placing second in November’s general election. She received the money as a reward for agreeing to comply with the city’s voluntary campaign spending limits, including not spending more than $75,000 during the general election.

So, did Alter, who faces Gallo on the Dec. 13 ballot, draw that money fair and square?

Alter’s campaign finance reports filed before the general election indicated that she did, and the city clerk cut the check. But an additional Alter campaign finance filing posted Dec. 5 — after Gallo’s mailer went out — show that Alter exceeded the limit. Either way, Gallo told us by email, a “loophole” in the city’s rules allowed Alter to get the public aid without having to meet those campaign finance limits because Gallo didn’t commit to the limits.

“Ms. Alter,” Gallo wrote, “agreed to abide by the restrictions, knowing full well that she would not have to follow those restrictions.”

The city’s public campaign finance system, the Austin Fair Campaign Ordinance, won council approval in October 1994. Among its features is a runoff pool, the Austin Fair Campaign Finance Fund, that is funded by lobbyist registration fees.

Under the system, mayoral candidates volunteer to spend no more than $120,000 in a general election or more than $80,000 in a runoff; for City Council candidates, the limits are $75,000 in the general election and $50,000 in a runoff….