April 08, 2004
DeLay, TRM/TAB, etc

A few updates on the various DeLay-related scandals, brouhahas, and lawsuits:

The original lawsuit filed by four losing Democratic candidates after the 2002 election in which they charged that ads run against them by the Texas for a Republican Majority used corporate money illegally survived a couple of pretrial motions to dismiss and/or limit it.

Texans for a Republican Majority's attorneys had asked Judge [Darlene] Byrne to dismiss the lawsuit. If she ruled against them, they asked that she restrict the damages for which the political committee might be liable.

She refused both requests in a pretrial order.

In that same lawsuit, DeLay staffer and executive director of Americans for a Republican Majority (from which TRM flowed) Jim Ellis is making the ludicrous claim that he should not be sued because he did not establish the "minimum contact" necessary to be sued in Texas. Yes, this is as stupid as it sounds.

According to Monday's filing, Ellis lives in Virginia, works in the District of Columbia, owns no property in Texas and has never engaged in a business in Texas. A judge weighs those kinds of factors to decide whether a person outside Texas has enough contact in the state to be sued.

Records show that Ellis is no stranger to Texas or its politics.

At DeLay's direction, Ellis helped create the Texas committee. As executive director of DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority, he sent the fledgling Texas group its $50,000 in start-up money.

He listed himself on state reports as a key decision-maker and paid consultant to Texans for a Republican Majority. He also helped decide which GOP candidates the committee would support in 2002 elections and sometimes traveled to Texas on the committee's business.

In 2003, Ellis spent months in Texas on DeLay's behalf, carrying DeLay's wishes to state lawmakers as they drew congressional maps behind closed doors. He also did lobbying for a Virginia company that has $29 million in highway maintenance contracts and for a Washington law firm that represented a coalition of international charities.

J.D. Pauerstein, Ellis' San Antonio lawyer, said it doesn't matter: "Essentially, we don't feel the contact Mr. Ellis has had with Texas is the kind or quality to justify being subject to jurisdiction."

Austin lawyer Cris Feldman, who represents four Democratic candidates who are trying to sue Ellis, called his position disingenuous and farcical.

"Ellis wasn't above choosing our Texas congressmen," Feldman said, "but now he believes he's above Texas law."


In his deposition for a lawsuit challenging the redistricting map, Ellis said he came to Texas frequently during 2003. He said he attended meetings with Gov. Rick Perry, DeLay and other state leaders as early as January and worked off and on in Austin until the legislation was passed in October.

He worked very closely with the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford.

Ellis said he visited King "closer to 50 times than 25" during the redistricting controversy.

King said Ellis served as the funnel for Republican members of Congress to tell King what they wanted in the map.

"From the end of spring, April and May, when we were doing serious map-drawing, he was down here weekly," King said. "In the summer, he was down a couple days a week, sometimes four or five days running."

You have to wonder what Ellis would consider "minimum contact" to be. I love this bit of reasoning from his attorney:

"If I go to Florida to go fishing, that doesn't mean I can be sued in Florida on something that has nothing to do with my fishing," he said. "If I hit someone with a fish hook, I can be sued in Florida for hooking someone."

I guess he's claiming that Ellis had no role whatsoever if the defeat of any Democratic candidate for the state House in 2002. None of this even remotely passes the smell test, and the Statesman's editorial page lets him have it.

The argument that Ellis wasn't in Texas enough to warrant his being subject to a lawsuit is risible. Republicans working with Ellis have testified in previous depositions that he was here frequently -- not fishing, but deciding which candidates to target in the 2002 election and working closely with the redistricting committee leadership.

Ellis was in the state for months during the the redistricting battle, which was played out most of last year in one regular and three special legislative sessions. Ellis said he met with the House sponsor of the redistricting bill, state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, close to 50 times.

Ellis was the conduit for information from DeLay to the legislators doing his bidding. King said Ellis was in Texas weekly early in the redistricting battle then several times a week during the summer. And now he doesn't want to return to face the music?

Ellis should readily, and happily, acknowledge his ties to the Lone Star State over the past two years. They're certainly extensive enough. The GOP is quite proud of what the party accomplished with Ellis' help, through the Texans for a Republican Majority and the Texas Association of Business.

The reason for all of this twaddle, of course, is that it buys time, just as all of Andy Taylor's tactics have done. The law and the facts are not on their side, so they're table-pounding for all they're worth.

Meanwhile, the grand jury investigation continues apace as prosecutors have subpoenaed records from AT&T related to the 2002 elections.

An AT&T spokesman confirmed Tuesday that prosecutors subpoenaed records from the corporation's vice president of government relations, Michael Jewell, who is based in Austin.

Kerry Hibbs, an AT&T spokesman, declined to say what the subpoena requested specifically except to say, "It's the topic you've been writing about."

The subpoena has not been filed publicly, and prosecutors declined to comment Tuesday.

And finally, in other news, Westar has completed its internal investigation into its controversial DeLay donation of 2002 and has handed its findings to the FEC.

However, CEO Jim Haines gave few other details after making those statements during a three-hour hearing by Kansas utility regulators, who have been reviewing Westar's management since 2001.

Last year saw the disclosure of company e-mails from 2002 detailing a plan to give $56,000 to Republican congressional campaigns that year "to get a seat at the table" of a House-Senate conference committee on energy legislation. House members of the committee supported a regulatory exemption sought by Westar.

"We have completed our internal investigation," Haines said. "The matter is being considered by the FEC. It's our anticipation that the matter will be dealt with in due course."

Haines later declined to elaborate.

The activities occurred under former CEO David Wittig, who left Westar in November 2002.

In August 2003, Westar revised its policies on political donations, saying the company would make corporate contributions to state or federal candidates, even where state law permitted them. Federal law bars them.

The policy change came three months after an internal company report said executives had "engaged in organized efforts" to contribute to state and federal candidates "perceived to support issues of interest to the company."

The report also said, "At least some officers felt pressured to contribute," and spurred Westar to investigate further.

The biggest donation was $25,000 by the company to a political action committee affiliated with U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, then the House whip, now the majority leader.

You may be pleased to hear that Westar has been barred from making any payments to former CEO Wittig as he awaits trial on 40 charges alleging he looted the energy company. I know I am.

TAB/TRM links via Save Texas Reps. First Westar link via AJ Garcia.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 08, 2004 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

>> The law and the facts are not on their side, so they're table-pounding for all they're worth.

Jumping the gun a little bit, aren't you? Shouldn't you let the court system judge the law and facts?

In our adversarial system, pre-trial motions ARE part of the process. They aren't relevant only in, say, cases where criminal defendants want to be declared mentally unfit for trial. :)

Posted by: kevin whited on April 8, 2004 9:37 AM