30 August 2006 at 11:40:40 AM
Spoke with David Lengefeld, who had run against (and lost) to Sid Miller in 2002. TAB had illegally provided TRMPAC money for Sid Miller's campaign. I asked Lengefeld if the TAB lawsuit, civil or criminal, was still going on. He said his suit had been the TRMPAC suit, which he and the other plaintiffs won, against Cerverha, who promptly then declared bankruptcy.
From Texans for Public Justice:
A state district judge issued a $196,000 judgment against Ceverha in May for violating Texas’ political disclosure laws as the 2002 treasurer of Congressman Tom DeLay’s Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC). During his civil trial, Ceverha testified in his own defense that he paid scant attention to TRMPAC’s campaign finance reports—which were his responsibility as PAC treasurer.
“What state officials would entrust their retirement to a man who confessed to being asleep at the fiduciary wheel?” McDonald asked.
Through his recent personal bankruptcy filing, Mr. Ceverha denied court-ordered compensation to TRMPAC’s victims. Ceverha did so despite the fact that the TRMPAC scandal has been a financial windfall for his lobbying and consulting business. In bankruptcy filings, Ceverha reports an extra $200,000 a year in post-scandal consulting business from clients eager to help him pay his legal fees.
Now back to TAB
The Texas Association of Business must answer questions about how it raised and spent $1.9 million in secret corporate money that's been at the center of civil lawsuits and a criminal investigation for almost three years, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday. ..
In 2002, the Texas Association of Business and Texans for a Republican Majority spent corporate money to help elect a Republican majority in the Texas House of Representatives, which, in turn, supported a pro-business, anti-tax agenda that included redrawing congressional boundaries to favor Republicans.
State law generally prohibits spending corporate or union money on campaign activity.
The business organization sent 4 million mail pieces to voters in two dozen crucial legislative districts without disclosing its corporate donors.
Association President Bill Hammond contended that the mail pieces were beyond state campaign finance laws, saying they only educated voters about issues without encouraging them to support or oppose candidates.
The association's post-election newsletter bragged that the organization "blew the doors" off the election by using its "unprecedented show of muscle." It also offered written testimonials from Republican candidates who credited the organization with making the difference in their victories.
An attorney suing the Texas Association of Business, the state's largest business group, over its use of corporate money in the 2002 state elections reported finding "wonderful stuff" amid the 20,000 pages of documents he won access to on Friday.
Taking a break from sorting through boxes of papers, attorney Buck Wood said, "I can see why (the association) fought so long and so hard to keep this stuff secret."
He said the documents would help him prove the association illegally raised and spent $1.9 million in corporate money to back Republican candidates in tested statewide races in 2002. Texas law all but forbids corporate money from being used for political campaigning.
July 1, 2005
Despite the existence of a century-old Texas law designed to keep corporate and union money from buying state elections, Texas Association of Business officials easily found a way to funnel corporate cash into key legislative races three years ago. It might have gone unnoticed if the officials hadn't used the group's newsletter and several e-mails to members to claim credit for helping to defeat Democratic incumbents and give the GOP legislative control.
Actually, they exaggerated a bit at the time, claiming that $1.9 million in donations had gone into the effort, when the real figure was $1.7 million. TAB President Bill Hammond and colleagues might have been more restrained in their gloating had they foreseen it would provoke a swarm of civil suits by defeated Democratic legislators. The blatant end run around election law also triggered a criminal investigation.
As reported by the Chronicle's R.G. Ratcliffe, documents released in a lawsuit by defeated Democratic candidate James Sylvester made it clear that a supposed TAB voter education campaign was actually a targeted assault on Democratic candidates. Among the papers were e-mails in which TAB executives repeatedly crowed about their success in defeating selected Republicans in primary contests and nine of 12 Democratic incumbents in the general election. Hammond had solicited contributions for the effort from the insurance industry, describing the money as going for voter education.
The money paid for television ads attacking one state representative, John Mabry, D-Waco, and praising his opponent, Republican Holt Getterman. Documents indicate the script was written by officials of Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee associated with House majority Leader Tom DeLay, and submitted to TAB for approval. Apparently TAB's idea of voter education is telling citizens that one candidate is bad, and one candidate is good.
January 8, 2006
The Texas Association of Business, indicted on felony charges of illegally spending corporate money in the 2002 election, always contended that it stayed within the law by keeping its election efforts independent of any candidate's campaign.
Yet, one of the primary strategists for the association's 2002 direct mail campaign also worked as a consultant to a Texas Senate candidate supported by the association.
Ben Bentzin, a Republican Senate candidate in 2002, said last week that political consultant John Colyandro produced his campaign's mailers while Colyandro was helping the association with its direct-mail efforts, including a pro-Bentzin mail advertisement paid for with secret corporate money.
Joe Turner, Colyandro's lawyer, said Colyandro did nothing wrong in his dual roles working for a campaign and working with a group that was supposed to steer clear of campaigns.
June 30, 2006- one indictment thrown out.
District Judge Mike Lynch ruled that 2002 pre-election ads produced by the group did not expressly advocate the election or defeat of Texas legislative candidates. Travis County prosecutors had said the group broke state election law by using corporate money to support candidates.
Lynch's ruling put in doubt two other similar indictments pending against the organization by also discounting prosecutors' alternative theory that the ads became illegal when the association coordinated them with other political groups. Lynch called the prosecutors' argument "innovative" but concluded that state law does not cover it.
Austin lawyer Roy Minton, who represents the business association, predicted that Lynch's decision ultimately would be the end of the lengthy prosecution: "I believe the basic position the court has taken is going to make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the state to prosecute TAB."
Even as critics warned that the ruling would open the floodgates to more secret money in state politics, District Attorney Ronnie Earle said he would pursue prosecution of a fourth indictment accusing the association of making an illegal contribution to its own political action committee. He also will probably appeal Lynch's ruling.
So... it continues.
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