January 15, 2004
Yo, Chuck, we're still waiting

Hmph. According to this Houston Press article, those of us who want to know the secret identities of anti-rail group Texans for True Mobility's donors better be prepared for disappointment. Seems our DA, Chuck Rosenthal, isn't particularly eager to enforce the laws they may have broken.

The D.A. said there would be an investigation, but he wouldn't reveal the results until after the November 4 election. After all, that was only a few weeks away, and the last thing Rosenthal wanted was to influence voters.

Since Rosenthal's announcement, however, nearly three months have passed. There's been no word from the D.A. and no accounting by Texans for True Mobility of the $1.4 million it claimed to raise: neither how it was spent nor who donated it.

But the group did file a report naming two donors who contributed $175,000 to what it calls its political action committee. Its Web site also includes a list of supporters.

And many of those names show up on an entirely different list: that of Rosenthal's contributors. The D.A.'s campaign records show that, since 2000, Rosenthal has received nearly $30,000 in donations from known TTM supporters. He's collected from eight of the 19 citizens listed on TTM's site. He also took $15,000 from developer Michael Stevens, one of the group's most outspoken leaders.

Those links -- as well as the D.A.'s hands-off stance during the crucial days before the election and his silence on the current probe -- have heightened concerns among TTM's critics.

I wouldn't be quite so cheesed about this if I had any faith that a real investigation had been ongoing all along, but between this Press article and last week's Chron story, I have to wonder if anything has been done yet. Look at this paragraph from the Press story:

Media coverage indicated that the D.A.'s investigation would be prompt, but the results would not be announced until after the voting. But last week, when the Press inquired about the investigation's status, Rosenthal said he didn't know. Only then did he say he would ask his government affairs chief for a report. He now says he expects to receive it soon.

And from the Chron story of January 9:

Don Smyth, the attorney leading the investigation, was gone for several weeks during the holidays, Rosenthal said, explaining why a decision on whether to pursue criminal charges has yet to be reached.

"I asked him Tuesday for a conclusion and to have it on my desk" in the next week or two, he said. "I need to have it come to an end."

Maybe I'm just being unreasonably impatient. These things do take time, and the holiday season puts a crimp on everyone's schedule. Things could be merrily perking along, with that final report due any day now. It's just that nowhere in either of these stories do I get any sense of urgency on Rosenthal's part. Given his overall track record, that's really put me in a negative frame of mind about the whole thing, so I have to ask: What's taking so damn long? Note, by the way, that Rosenthal asked for that report on Tuesday the 6th. We're now at Thursday the 15th. That "next week or two" deadline is rapidly approaching.

Smyth, whose name is spelled with an "i" in the Press story, says "There is an investigation going on, and we're going to try to resolve it." I sure hope so.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 15, 2004 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack