March 01, 2005
TRMPAC lawsuit, Day One

The lawsuit against the Texans for a Republican Majority PAC is underway, and one of the first witnesses says they shoulda known better.

Texans for a Republican Majority, formed by Republican U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, should have reported some $600,000 in expenditures on state disclosure forms, Trevor Potter testified.

Some of the money was spent for political consultants, printing for mailouts and other items that five Democratic plaintiffs claim were political expenses. Potter, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, agreed.

"They're all reportable, and corporate money can't be used for those expenses," Potter said.


Potter testified that TRMPAC was "a highly sophisticated political operation" that used nationally known pollsters, dealt with large amounts of money, had experienced consultants and targeted specific House races.

Under cross-examination, he acknowledged that a highly sophisticated political operation would be more likely to comply with the law.

Another claim by the Democratic plaintiffs that the Republican political committee coordinated its efforts with other groups was addressed in questions posed to Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond.

The business association and Texans for a Republican Majority worked together on a mass mailing to voters in 15 House races, Hammond said. He said his association also shared information with TRMPAC about its issue-oriented "public education program" during the 2002 election season.

But the two groups made separate decisions about involvement in House races, Hammond testified.


Hammond said his association repeatedly sought the advice of a recognized Texas election law attorney so that it would stick with "issue advocacy" in its election activities and avoid "express advocacy," or the urging of the election or defeat of a particular candidate.

He said issue advocacy is protected free speech under the First Amendment.

Potter was asked about $190,000 that Texans for a Republican Majority sent to a division of the Republican National Committee. Some Texas House candidates later received that same amount of money from an arm of the Republican National Committee.

"It raises an obvious question. That is, whether it was money laundering," Potter testified.

However, attorney Terry Scarborough, who represents Ceverha, said in opening statements that money from the Texas committee went into a Republican National Committee account from which corporate dollars could legally be spent in other states.

In a separate criminal investigation, two people associated with TRMPAC John Colyandro and Jim Ellis have been charged with money laundering based on the $190,000 transaction.

As noted here, Trevor Potter has a long list of Republican credentials, which if nothing else makes him a provocative witness.

Elsewhere, Save Texas Reps has a roundup of recent news coverage, while Drive Democracy is attending the trial and blogging from there. See Nathan's coverage of the opening statements by the plaintiff and Bill Ceverha's testimony. Last but certainly not least is In the Pink Texas, also at the trial and on the lookout for a double espresso and an open window. Stay tuned for more.

UPDATE: Two more from Nathan, on Trevor Potter's testimony and Bill Hammond's testimony.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 01, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack