Speaker Tom Craddick met with a small group of corporate donors to Texans for a Republican Majority at a Washington, D.C., breakfast just a month before the 2002 election and Craddick's elevation to leader of the Texas House of Representa- tives.
Two GOP consultants had been planning the D.C. affair for two months, including an early meeting in Austin where they urged Craddick to participate in the fund-raiser in the nation's capital, according to documents that likely will be submitted as evidence in an upcoming civil trial involving the 2002 fund-raising efforts.
A Travis County grand jury last fall indicted the two consultants, John Colyandro and Warren Robold, for their roles in raising corporate money.
As prosecutors continue to investigate Craddick's association with Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee, the newest court documents — including e-mails between Colyandro and Robold — further dispel Craddick's 2003 contention he did little for the committee outside of attending one or two fund-raisers.
In one e-mail, Colyandro told Robold, who was seeking fund-raising help from then-U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, that Craddick had faxed a request to the Bush Cabinet officer.
State law prohibits outside groups from trying to influence a speaker's election or a candidate for speaker from accepting help from an outside group.
Several Democratic candidates who lost in 2002 are suing the treasurer of Texans for a Republican Majority, former Dallas state Rep. Bill Ceverha, another Craddick ally, claiming the committee should have reported the $600,000 in corporate donations it ultimately spent.
Colyandro and Ellis were temporarily dropped as defendants in the lawsuit because both face criminal charges arising from the committee's fund raising.
The civil trial begins Feb. 28, and Craddick has been subpoenaed. The e-mails might be introduced as evidence.
Twenty-four hours after the election, several of the dozen or so Republicans [who had been previously opposed to Craddick's speakership] met Craddick's lieutenants at the Ruth's Chris Steak House in Austin and signed on to give Craddick unanimous support from Republicans.
The next morning, Craddick announced victory, with 102 members pledged to his election as the first Republican speaker in more than 100 years.
Colyandro sent Craddick the draft of a thank-you letter on the letterhead of Texans for a Republican Majority. It was to be signed by Craddick and sent to the contributors to the GOP committee.
"We won a major victory election night, and all of us involved with TRMPAC owe you a deep debt of gratitude," the letter said. "We look forward to building on TRMPAC's success and having you as part of our team. Many thanks. Sincerely, Tom Craddick. Speaker-elect."
[Craddick's lawyer Roy] Minton said that Craddick never signed the draft and that the letter was never sent. He refused to say why, but critics of Craddick say privately the letter would have amounted to a written admission of his role with Texans for a Republican Majority.
"He didn't sign it," Minton said. "End of story."