Catching up on a few things...
Bill Hammond and the Texas Association of Business have been added as defendants to an existing lawsuit filed in 2002.
The suit alleges the group and Hammond conspired with Texans for a Republican Majority, a fund-raising group, to elect Republicans to the House in part so they could help Tom Craddick become speaker.
The association also is accused of violating election laws by spending $1.9 million of corporate money on mailings to voters.
The allegations are similar to those made against the group in a civil trial against Texans for a Republican Majority. A judge's ruling in that case is pending.
"They all did this together. It was like one big happy family," said Buck Wood, the Democrats' attorney. Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle is conducting a separate criminal investigation of the election spending that has resulted in some indictments.
More bad news for Tom Craddick.
Rep. Tom Craddick and a pro-Republican group shared extensive phone calls, fundraisers, campaign checks and mutual promotion while the Midland lawmaker was pushing to become House speaker, a review of civil court records shows.
The contacts and cooperation between Mr. Craddick and Texans for a Republican Majority were so extensive that two experts on state campaign laws say that the ban on outside influence in speaker races may have been violated. Mr. Craddick's attorney said the activities were nowhere close to illegal.
A Travis County grand jury is looking into whether Mr. Craddick received an illegal boost from the political action committee when he sought the leadership post in 2002. Three individuals and eight corporations have been indicted, and the case has drawn national attention because of ties between TRMPAC and U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
While the grand jury deliberations are secret, thousands of pages of civil court records culled by The Dallas Morning News show:
•TRMPAC helped Mr. Craddick ingratiate himself to GOP colleagues by sending him TRMPAC campaign checks to deliver. In all, 25 checks to Republican House candidates worth $177,000 were routed through Mr. Craddick.
•E-mails, phone records and depositions show that TRMPAC shared its campaign intelligence on key races with Mr. Craddick and set up a Washington breakfast for him to meet large corporate donors.
•A TRMPAC official kept tabs on whether potential Republican House candidates would support Mr. Craddick in the speaker's race.
•Committee officials invited Mr. Craddick to accompany them on appointments to solicit individual donors.
•Several corporate checks made out to TRMPAC had cover letters sent in care of Mr. Craddick, even though he has said that he was unconnected to the committee. In at least one instance, Mr. Craddick wrote a personal thank-you note for a contribution made to TRMPAC.
After reviewing the list of shared activities, Austin attorney Buck Wood, who helped write the 1973 law governing speakers' races, said he believes TRMPAC went too far in helping Mr. Craddick become speaker.
"Taken as a whole, if this doesn't violate this statute, I don't think that the statute can be violated," said Mr. Wood. He is suing TRMPAC on a separate matter, alleging that it used corporate money in the 2002 campaign.
Craig McDonald, executive director of the campaign finance reform group Texans for Public Justice, said after reviewing the overlapping events compiled by The News that the raising and distributing of money are problematic.
"TRMPAC was a thinly-veiled PAC on behalf of Tom Craddick's race for speaker. That's our opinion," Mr. McDonald said.
He said Mr. Craddick's "intimate and singular involvement" in TRMPAC campaign funds, many of which went to candidates who later supported Mr. Craddick for speaker, is a violation of the law.
"TRMPAC-style committees to support a candidate for speaker or give one person an advantage because they're doling out campaign money – that's exactly what the statute was aimed at prohibiting," Mr. McDonald said.
The court records reviewed by The News came in one of those lawsuits, filed by five Democrats who lost 2002 House races to Republicans helped by TRMPAC.
The Chron covers the Lautenberg rebuke to Tom DeLay, on which Ezra's guest blogger Michael has more. The Daily DeLay has some coverage of the anti-DeLay ad campaign. And it wouldn't be a real roundup without some more anti-DeLay editorials.
Those who want to know how to run against DeLay elsewhere should read this story from Virginia.
Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick plans to hold no ordinary state-level political fund-raiser on April 19.
For starters, U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, will host. And the event will be held outside the Woodbridge delegate's 52nd District.
[S]ome might question the choice of holding a fund-raiser with U.S. House Majority Leader DeLay. In recent months he has faced an inquiry by the House ethics committee and a criminal investigation of his Texas-based political action committee.
He also spearheaded the controversial congressional involvement in the case of Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman who died Thursday after being the subject of a long legal battle between her husband and her parents.
Frederick refused to comment on DeLay's ethical troubles.
"The bottom line is that if Mr. Frederick has decided to tie his fortunes to Mr. DeLay's, then it really casts considerable doubt on Mr. Frederick's judgement," said Rick Coplen, Prince William County Democratic Committee chair.
"If there was a national Democrat that was as tainted and as ethically challenged as Mr. DeLay is, I would certainly strongly recommend to any Democratic candidates that they not do a similar fund-raiser," he said.
DeLay, known as "The Hammer," might help Frederick retrieve financial support, but it could cost him some votes, Farnsworth said.
"Tom DeLay is a pretty polarizing figure," Farnsworth said. "You're not going to generate a lot of interest in your campaign from centrist voters if you stand side-by-side with this highly controversial, highly partisan and apparently scandal-plagued politician."
Local Republican leaders did not return calls for comment Thursday.