December 16, 2003
Did the Supremes give Ronnie Earle an early present?

Carlos Guerra looks at the recent Supreme Court ruling that upheld McCain/Feingold campaign finance reform and wonders if this will benefit the ongoing grand jury investigation into donations made by the Texas Association of Business and Texans for a Republican Majority.

Texas has banned corporate campaign cash since 1905. But during the 2002 election cycle, U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and his buddies launched a Republican takeover of the Texas House to increase the GOP's and DeLay's influence in Congress and keep it long into the future.

"It isn't that there hadn't been other misuses involving corporate money in the past," says Craig McDonald, head of Texans for Public Justice, a watchdog group. "But 2002 was the first time we saw an avalanche of corporate money come into legislative elections, and I suspect that it was coordinated."

Five GOP-related political action committees supported a startlingly similar list of legislative candidates, and two groups are now being probed by a Travis County grand jury delving into criminal violations of the state's corporate money ban.

The best known of these is the Texas Association of Business (TAB), which provided money and in-kind support to 23 GOP candidates. Since the Travis County probe opened in January, the association's attorney, Andy Taylor who is also the state's defense attorney in the federal redistricting challenge has mounted several unsuccessful attempts to block disclosure of TAB's corporate donors and other critical evidence.

And since March, another group has come under scrutiny on allegations it illegally siphoned corporate money to campaigns: the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (TRM). The group has multiple connections to DeLay, the kingpin behind the redistricting plan that is now facing a challenge in federal court over whether it diminishes minority influence in Congress. Coincidentally, I'm sure, it also funded the TAB candidates.

"It came to our attention that TRM also received approximately $600,000 from corporations, some of whom care about Texas but also from some corporations that only cared about access to Tom DeLay in Congress, like Bacardi & Co. (of Florida) and Westar (Energy of Kansas)," McDonald says.


But Taylor's legal reversals, recent revelations and now the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling have given McDonald hope as the holiday season approaches that Texas' laws will be respected and enforced.

"My Christmas wish is that shortly after the end of the year," he says, "the grand jury will deliver some indictments against the responsible parties."

It's a nice thought, to be sure, but I can't quite see the connection. I mean, if the Supremes had tossed out McCain/Feingold, then I'd expect that the grand jury would be thanked for its time and sent home. All this does is confirm that their work won't be preempted. It doesn't change or add to the facts, it just puts the law on firmer footing. I'll wish for the same thing, but I don't believe it's gotten any more likely.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 16, 2003 to Scandalized! | TrackBack