July 23, 2005
It was the insurance companies

In the Pink and Drive Democracy were on this yesterday: Documents which were ordered to be released by the Texas Association of Business as part of litigation against it have led to the identity of many of its secret corporate donors from the 2002 elections. Almost all of them came from the insurance industry.

Among the 18 identified corporate donors, only AT&T Corp., the National Federation of Independent Business and a small data company in the Rio Grande Valley are not involved directly in insurance matters. But those organizations also had an interest in controlling insurance costs and limiting lawsuits.

The insurance firms included giants such as United HealthCare, Cigna, Aetna, Humana, PacifiCare, Blue Cross of California, State Farm and Allstate.

The donations ranged from $100 to $300,000, with most of them at least $40,000 per company.

Officials with most of the corporations either declined to comment because of the threat of litigation or the criminal investigation or did not respond to inquiries from the American-Statesman.

Officials with Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., Allstate Insurance Co. and the business federation confirmed donating to TAB's voter effort. And they emphasized that the money was used to educate voters, not to campaign for candidates, which would be illegal.

"Our contribution to TAB was to help the business community, which we are major part of, publicize a pro-growth business agenda in Texas through a voter education project," Liberty Mutual spokesman Joe Cusolito said.

"We certainly wanted to educate voters on business issues that were important to us," Allstate spokesman Joe McCormick said. "If we wanted to contribute to a candidate, we'd do it through our PAC and not an effort like that."

Unlike the other TAB donors, which just donated money for the overall effort, NFIB designated its $1,000 for a mailer discussing the differences between Supreme Court candidate Dale Wainwright and his opponent.

"We believe we acted within all campaign finance laws," NFIB spokeswoman Nancy St. Pierre said.

Some companies, however, may have not understood the nuances of the ban on corporate money in connection with a campaign.

Allstate, for example, labeled its $20,000 donation as a "political contribution" on the check stub.

They got a great return on their investment, as the tort "reform" amendment that was pushed through has been quite the bonanza for insurers. The chief waterboy in this was Moldy Joe Nixon, who will undoubtedly reap a nice reward himself when he jumps into the SD7 race as everyone expects him to do.

What's Andy Taylor got to say about all this?

TAB blacked out the corporations' names and many other identifying marks but left untouched several pieces of information: original documents without the names blacked out, bank account numbers that could be compared to other checks or invoices, and some signatures left exposed.

TAB's lawyer, Andy Taylor, invited reporters to examine the pages, assuring them "nothing's there."

On Thursday, Taylor denied that TAB may have made a mistake in editing the documents, except in two or three instances when original checks or invoices were released without the corporate names adequately blacked out.

He said he had no choice but to follow the court order: "We had to give everything but the names. We didn't have the right to redact anything else."

Poor Andy. Quite the losing streak you're on there, dude. I'm sure all these companies, who will now be named as co-defendants in the various lawsuits against TAB, will understand the predicament you were in.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 23, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack