September 23, 2004
Craddick's turn

The grand jury work in Austin isn't over yet. Another grand jury will be impaneled starting next week, and this time their focus will be House Speaker Tom Craddick and the Texas Association of Business. Let's go to the videotape:

From the Morning News:

[Travis County DA Ronnie] Earle, who has subpoenaed extensive records from Mr. Craddick and the business association, made it clear that the grand jury work was not done.

"There are a number of allegations that arose as a result of the 2002 elections. We continue to investigate various of those allegations," he said. "Anyone who has committed a crime is a target."

Craig McDonald, executive director of Texans for Public Justice, filed the original criminal complaints that are at the heart of the grand jury investigation. He said he expects the Texas Association of Business and Mr. Craddick to be indicted.

"I don't think it's going to stop here," Mr. McDonald said.

He said he "would be surprised" if the TAB and Mr. Craddick did not "face some indictments in the months to come."

Allegations against the speaker and the TAB have unfolded in the last year, some through civil lawsuits brought by losing candidates that raised many of the issues also being explored by the grand jury. Others have been unearthed through newspaper reports and court hearings.


Among the actions that appear to connect Mr. Craddick to the TRMPAC operation:

•In October 2002, TRMPAC mailed Mr. Craddick $152,000 worth of checks to 14 candidates. The money had been raised from individuals, not corporations, and therefore could legally be given directly to candidates. But TRMPAC chose Mr. Craddick to deliver the largesse to the potential House members.

Roy Minton, Mr. Craddick's attorney, said delivering checks did not qualify as a "thing of value." And, he said, all the candidates who received the checks had "pledged to him [Mr. Craddick] long before then."

•Also in October 2002, Mr. Craddick passed along a $100,000 corporate check made out to TRMPAC and donated by The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care Corp., among the firms indicted Tuesday on charges of making an illegal contribution to TRMPAC.

Such a donation would be illegal in Texas if the business knew the money would be spent for political purposes. A spokesman for the alliance said the group thought the money would be spent on administrative expenses.

Mr. Minton said Mr. Craddick was just serving as a conduit for a Republican cause. "I don't know how in the world he would know how it's going to be spent," Mr. Minton said.

•TRMPAC records show that in interviews with Republican candidates in the primary, notes were taken on whether they supported Mr. Craddick in the speaker's race.

•In the months immediately before and after the November election, Mr. Craddick spoke 92 times with the political coordinator for TRMPAC, according to phone records.

Mr. Minton said that his client was interested in politics and was just catching up on events.

Mr. McDonald said he believes TRMPAC was helping Mr. Craddick in the speaker's race and that he helped direct their operation. "It's a stretch of the imagination to say that Craddick didn't know the corporate and hard money aspects of TRMPAC. If he didn't understand, he's the least curious man in politics," Mr. McDonald said.

The Express-News expands on that $100G check:

The check was given to Craddick during a dinner in Houston with Chris Winkle, CEO of Atlanta-based Mariner Health Care Inc. on Oct. 18, 2002, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle said.

In Midland on Wednesday, Craddick did not deny receiving the check, but did not recall who gave it to him, according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram.


Winkle, whose Texas subsidiary, Living Centers of Texas, operates 54 nursing homes, including one in San Antonio, did nothing beyond delivering the check to Craddick, said Winkle's attorney, Van Hilley of San Antonio.

"It was not a planned trip to meet" Craddick, Hilley said of the Houston dinner. "It was set up by political consultants, and they talked about tort reform. (Winkle) did not think anything untoward about it, and he has cooperated fully" with prosecutors, Hilley said.

Hilley said his client confirmed to investigators on Friday his role in delivering the check.

Here's that Midland Reporter-Telegram story:

Records from the speaker's office were subpoenaed by the grand jury earlier this year relating to his role in the distribution of $152,000 in checks from the Texas political action committee to candidates campaigning for the Texas House.

Craddick said he did not remember to whom he gave $100,000 in corporate money from one of the indicted companies and said he did not know what the check was going to be used for.

"I met with some people in Houston and they gave it to me when I visited," Craddick said, adding that he was not in Houston for the purpose of collecting money.

"I don't even know if I looked at it, to be truthful," he said.

Sure is a good thing they didn't give him a booby-trapped letter to pass on. He'd have made a pretty useless witness, apparently.

The Chron picks up the ball from the Mariner Health Care side:

In the Mariner incident, Craddick received corporate money on behalf of TRMPAC. To have violated the state's ban on corporate money in campaigns, Craddick would have had to have known he was taking banned money.

Van Hilley, a San Antonio criminal defense lawyer representing Mariner Health Care Inc., said Winkle met with Craddick in October 2002 in Houston. He said Winkle had been asked to deliver a check to Craddick from the nursing-home alliance to have delivered to TRMPAC.

"We simply wanted to talk to the speaker about tort reform. He wasn't the speaker at the time, but everybody thought he was going to be speaker," Hilley said.

Hilley said someone with the alliance knew Winkle was meeting with Craddick and asked Winkle to deliver the check.

"It was actually set up through some of the political consultants here in the state that the alliance had and that we had. They sort of made the connection for us," Hilley said. "I'm not sure our client ever actually saw the check. It was in an envelope."

Hilley said Winkle discussed his meeting with Craddick in a conversation with Travis County prosecutors last week.

Bill Miller of Hillco Partners confirmed that Mariner lobbyist Neal T. "Buddy" Jones set up the meeting between Winkle and Craddick. Miller said any questions about the donation would have to be directed to Mariner or the alliance.

Joel Weiden, a spokesman for the alliance, said one of the 14 group members asked that the donation be made. He declined to name the business that wanted to make the contribution to TRMPAC.

The alliance is an umbrella nonprofit corporation for some of the nation's largest nursing-home companies. The alliance maintains there was nothing illegal about its contributions to TRMPAC.

More from the Statesman:

Craddick, who was not indicted Tuesday but remains under investigation, said Wednesday that he doesn't remember to whom he gave the $100,000 check: "It's a long time ago."

Bank records show Texans for a Republican Majority deposited the check two days after the meeting at Anthony's in Houston.

San Antonio lawyer Van Hilley represents Chris Winkle, the chief executive of Mariner Health Care Inc., an alliance member.

Hilley said his client was in Houston on business and was asked to deliver the check as a favor for other members of the alliance.

"He was just a messenger," Hilley said. "I don't think he even knew the size of the check."

The dinner at Anthony's, however, was not a coincidental meeting.

Austin lobbyist Neal "Buddy" Jones, a close ally of Craddick's who has represented nursing homes in Texas for years, confirmed Wednesday that he arranged the meeting. He refused to say anything else about his client's business, but added that he did not attend the meeting.

Among its activities, the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care runs TV commercials in Washington, D.C., and print ads in Roll Call, a publication for Capitol Hill, opposing cuts in Medicare aid for nursing home patients or appealing to Congress for more money to recruit and retain nurses.

But the night of Oct. 21, when Craddick and Winkle dined, the topic was limiting lawsuits against nursing homes.

Last year Steve Guillard, the Boston-based chairman of the alliance, said the group sent $100,000 to Texas less than three weeks before the election because its Texas members were interested in the pending legislative debate over limiting the legal liability of companies, including nursing homes.

Asked why the alliance felt it needed to give the money to Craddick if it was intended for the Texas PAC, Hilley said, "That's a good question."

It's not the first time Craddick or his staff handled PAC money.

Colyandro sent $152,000 in noncorporate donations, intended for Republican House candidates, to Craddick's Midland office. That money then was sent to the candidates. Those candidates, once elected, voted for Craddick for House speaker.

Craddick has said he had already secured enough pledges from House members to become speaker before the $152,000 was routed through his office.

State law forbids outside groups from trying to influence a speaker's race in which only House members can vote. It also prohibits a candidate from accepting outside help.

Finally, the Star-Telegram considers the question of political fallout this November:

State Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco, who heads the House Democratic Caucus, said Craddick's acceptance of the nursing home organization's money was "extremely disturbing."

"Texans deserve an explanation for why Speaker Craddick took $100,000 in illegal corporate cash from a company that was just indicted," Dunnam said.

Meanwhile, a Democratic consultant said the controversy could help put a dent in the GOP's 88-62 state House majority in November's elections.

"That some of these House Republicans put Tom DeLay's interests above those of Texas families will be an issue in those local races," Democratic strategist Kelly Fero said. "Voters are going to have to decide whether they want to reward those incumbents or turn to a candidate who's not all tangled up in tainted corporate money."

But Austin political consultant Bill Miller, who advises Craddick, disputed the notion.

"We are heading into the homestretch of a presidential election campaign at a time when the nation's at war," Miller said. "Nothing is going to be heard above the din of presidential politics. This is the hardest time to make an issue [in a state House race] stick."

I can tell you that I've received emails from the campaigns of Mark Strama and Bob Glaze, running against TRMPAC trough-feeders Jack Stick and Bryan Hughes, and both are calling for their opponents to return the TRMPAC money. Rep. Max Sandlin has called on his opponent to return money he got from DeLay's ARMPAC. Will they do that? Probably not. Will that have any effect? Hard to say, but it can't hurt.

(UPDATE: Sarah has more on this.)

Meanwhile, back in Fort Bend, the reaction to the charges against Tom DeLay's buddies has been muted so far.

A quick and informal poll of people outside a county courthouse annex building Wednesday showed that only a few knew about the indictments in any detail.

"I don't really keep up much on it," said Mary Lutz of Needville. "I should, but I don't."

Lutz said she plans to vote a straight Republican ticket and that includes voting for DeLay.


Alice Palacios of Richmond had not heard any specifics about the Travis County indictments but said it did not matter because she does not plan to vote for DeLay anyway.

Nate Johnson of Stafford said any time a criminal case develops around a politician, people will automatically say it is politically motivated.

"That is going to be said whether it's a Democrat or Republican," he said.

Johnson said DeLay spends too much time pursuing his own political agenda.

Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace said DeLay has done much for the city and county and said he does not believe the criminal cases will hurt DeLay's re-election bid.

One Fort Bend resident who does not think the indictments were politically motivated is Bo Randall, who has served on seven Fort Bend County grand juries in the past 30 years.

Randall said she was never swayed by political sentiments and does not believe the panel in Travis County would issue an indictment without sufficient evidence.

Elsewhere, John Colyandro has turned himself in (he was released on a personal-recognizance bond shortly thereafter), the Miami Herald recaps things with an emphasis on the Very Special Relationship that DeLay has with Bacardi, and the Austin Chronicle, which will surely have a longer story on this next week or so, brings up the old Sharpstown scandal from the early 70s that helped pave the way for the change from an all-Democrat to an all-Republican power structure in Texas.

Finally, while as noted yesterday there's little chance of Tom DeLay being indicted since Ronnie Earle has no jurisdiction over him and the Fort Bend DA is unlikely to be interested, there's still the matter of the House Ethics Committee. Rep. Chris Bell sent out an email which disputes a number of DeLay's claims regarding his ties to TRMPAC. It's reproduced below the More link, since this entry is plenty long enough already.


The Express-News says what happens next will determine if Texas' campaign finance laws mean anything or not.

Carlos Guerra chats with Fred Lewis of Clean Up Texas Politics, who hopes that the next step will be to look at what's still legal:

"What is legal in Texas is as bad as what is illegal," he said. "Texas is one of just a few states with no contribution limits, allowing super-rich individuals to dominate our state elections.

"In 2002, one individual gave $4 million in legal contributions and 15 gave over $500,000 each. In Texas, 57 percent of all the legal contributions came in amounts of $25,000 or greater."

The Morning News does its best to put a pro-Republican spin on things, but still admits that the charges are serious and should be taken seriously by the state GOP.

The Chron goes all Greek mythology on us, working in words like "hubris" and a reference to Icarus.

The Star Telegram lauds Ronnie Earle's efforts.

The Waco Trib joins the independent-counsel bandwagon for the House ethics complaint against DeLay.

The Lufkin Daily News connects the dots to redistricting.

FACT CHECK: DeLay Statements Contradict Evidence

The Myth:

"This investigation isn't about me", explained House Majority Leader Tom DeLay Tuesday about his colleague's indictments. "All I did was help raise money. I didn't have anything to do with where it went." As reported in today's Los Angeles Times.

The Facts:

Although Mr. DeLay claims to have no connection with the three associates indicted on Tuesday, his statements do not agree with the facts. According to deposition testimony offered by defendant John Colyandro, the executive director of TRMPAC, DeLay is directly involved with TRMPAC.

* DeLay served was the head of TRMPAC's advisory board and was integrally involved in its administration.

* According to the deposition testimony of John Colyandro, there were regular conference calls "to discuss matters related to the overall administration of the committee."

* "When it came to broadly making decisions about who, which candidates we would support and with what amount of financial assistance, at that point the advisory board was involved with those types of decisions." - John Colynadro, sworn testimony

* An October 4, 2002, memo from TRMPAC fundraiser Susan Lilly discussed an upcoming conference call with donors in which Rep. DeLay would "update everyone on TRMPAC's efforts to date and to discuss our strategy for victory in the final weeks of the campaign."

Other highlights of the deposition connecting DeLay to the indictments are listed as follows:

* DeLay named to TRMPAC advisory board.

* TRMPAC documents stating that Congressman DeLay was a leader of TRMPAC.

* "High Ranking Republicans announced formation of new PAC" (11/28/01) news release includes description of advisory board and DeLay's name.

* Colyandro met with DeLay in Dallas at Bill Ceverha's office while Colyandro was working for TRMPAC.

* DeLay traveled, on a private plane, to Texas for TRMPAC event in February 2002. TRMPAC paid for the cost of the plane ride.

* Colyandro distributed memo to members of advisory board assessing potential Republican candidates and discussing their viability.

* Advisory Board met and discussed races that TRMPAC was supporting.

* All members of the advisory board were engaged in raising funds for TRMPAC. A quote from Congressman DeLay was used in TRMPAC's direct mail fundraising appeals.

Response Statement from Chris Bell

"These indictments along with the deposition of his fellow collaborator, John Colyandro, just strengthen the case that Mr. DeLay should be investigated by the Ethics Committee."

"I don't think any credible person would believe that Mr. DeLay had no idea what his top level aides were up to, particularly when the money they raised illegally helped changed the face of Texas politics. Besides, the facts clearly show Mr. DeLay was deeply involved. The evidence at hand doesn't support his statements."

"I am confident that the evidence will demonstrate that all roads lead right back to Tom DeLay. He is the common link."

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 23, 2004 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

all roads lead right back to Tom DeLay. He is the common link."


Oh dear God please let it be so. I hope he cells with the biggest gayest cellmate also. Sweet revenge.

Posted by: ksec on September 23, 2004 8:14 PM

Subject: Mandatory draft 6/15/05
Express your preference.

Mandatory draft for boys and girls (ages 18-26) starting June 15, 2005, is something that everyone should know about. This literally effects everyone since we all have or know children that will have to go if this bill passes.

There is pending legislation in the house and senate (companion bills: S89 and HR 163) which will time the program's initiation so the draft can begin as early as spring, 2005, just after the 2004 presidential election. The dministration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now, while the public's attention is on the elections, so our action on this is needed immediately. Details and links follow. This plan, among other things, eliminates higher education as a shelter and includes women in the draft. Also, crossing into Canada has already been made very difficult.

Actions: Please send this on to all the parents and teachers you know, and all the aunts and uncles, grandparents, godparents. . . And let your children know - - it's their future, and they can be a powerful voice for change! This legislation is called HR 163 and can be found in detail at this website: Just enter in "HR 163" and click search and will bring up the bill for you to read. It is less than two pages long.

If this bill passes, it will include all men and ALL WOMEN from ages 18 - 26 in a draft for military action. In addition, college will no longer be an option for avoiding the draft and they will be signing an agreement with the Canada which will no longer permit anyone attempting to dodge the draft to stay within it's borders. This bill also includes the extension of military service for all those that are currently active. If you go to the select service web site and read their 2004 FYI Goals you will see that the reasoning for this is to increase the size of the military in case of terrorism. This is a critical piece of legislation, this will effect our undergraduates, our children and our grandchildren.

Please take the time to write your congressman and let them know how you feel about this legislation.


Please also write to your representatives and ask them why they aren't telling their constituents about these bills and write to newspapers and other media outlets to ask them why they're not covering this important story.

The draft $28 million has been added to the 2004 selective service system budget to prepare for a military draft that could start as early as June 15, 2005. Selective service must report to Bush on March 31, 2005 that the system, which has lain dormant for decades, is ready for activation.

Please see to view the Selective Service System annual performance plan, fiscal year 2004.

The pentagon has quietly begun a public campaign to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots nationwide. Though this is an unpopular election year topic, military experts and influential members of congress are suggesting that if Rumsfeld's prediction of a "long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan (and permanent state of war on terrorism) proves accurate, the U.S. may have no choice but to draft.


entitled the Universal National service Act of 2003, "to provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons (age 18-26) in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes." These active bills currently sit in the committee on armed services. Dodging the draft will be more difficult than those from the Vietnam era.

College and Canada will not be options. In December, 200 1, Canada and the U.S. signed a "smart border declaration," which could be used to keep would-be draft dodgers in. Signed by Canada's minister of foreign affairs, John Manley, and U.S. Homeland Security director, Tom Ridge, the declaration involves a 30 point plan which implements, among other things, a "pre-clearance agreement" of people entering and departing each country. Reforms aimed at making the draft more equitable along gender and class lines also eliminates higher education as a shelter.

Underclassmen would only be able to postpone service until the end of their current semester. Seniors would have until the end of the academic year.

What to do:

Tell your friends, Contact your legislators and ask them to oppose these bill. Just type "congress" into the aol search engine and input your zip code. A list of your reps will pop up with a way to email them directly. We can't just sit and pretend that by ignoring it, it will go away. We must voice our concerns and create the world we want to live in for our children and grandchildren.

Posted by: spreadntheword on September 24, 2004 12:13 AM

The legal issues involved in campaign finance are complex and I can't pretend to be enough of an expert to comment fully on these cases. Comments like KSEC's are the ones who make guys like me wonder if the charges are politically motivated.

I can't say they are politically motivated, and that question ought to be resolved in a court.

But how much of the Democrats' glee over this is motivated by a desire for justice and how much is motivated by a desire to use the judicial process to get at a political opponent for his success in pushing his political agenda?

Posted by: Rob Booth (Slightly Rough) on September 29, 2004 9:07 PM