February 26, 2005
Craddick makes a deal to avoid testifying

Very interesting.

Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick has struck a deal not to appear in Monday's corporate electioneering trial, saying he might have shredded any communications he had with Texans for a Republican Majority two years ago.

Five Democratic state legislative candidates who lost in 2002 are suing Bill Ceverha, the treasurer of the Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee, accusing him of spending illegal corporate donations in their campaigns.

Lawyers for the Democrats had subpoenaed Craddick to testify and produce documents. But this week Roy Minton, the speaker's lawyer, negotiated the deal that excused Craddick from appearing.

In the stipulation, Craddick acknowledges what has been widely reported the political action committee sent $152,000 in noncorporate donations to his Midland office, where Craddick's staff distributed the checks to Republican candidates running for the Texas House of Representatives.

Questions have been raised about whether the PAC and Craddick violated a state law barring outside groups from assisting a candidate for speaker. Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle is investigating that, as well as allegations that associates of Texans for a Republican Majority laundered corporate money and violated state elections laws. (Three officials with the political committee were indicted last fall.)

The stipulation also said the documents requested by the Democrats "do not currently exist."

Furthermore, "to the extent such records ever existed, they were shredded in 2003," according to the stipulation.

In February 2004, Earle subpoenaed Craddick's records after news reports indicated that Craddick's staff distributed the PAC's campaign donations to House members who eventually voted in the members-only contest to elect the next speaker.

The key to all this is the stipulation for the record that Craddick was the middleman for that $152,000 check. The money could be legally given to the candidates, but using Craddick as a conduit is a problem. This post from September covers most of the relevant info regarding the $152K check and the documents Ronnie Earle sought. Here's the nub of the issue:

[Indicted TRMPAC Executive Directorr John] 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.

Seems to me that Craddick has now admitted he did something at least potentially illegal, though the lack of a paper trail would make it hard to convict him of it. If stipulating to this was better than getting grilled on the stand, then he must have really not wanted to testify. I believe the next move is yours, Ronnie.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 26, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack