A lawsuit against the Texas Association of Business has been expanded to include several corporate donors, most of them insurance companies, that financed the association's 2002 direct-mail campaign that's part of a grand jury investigation.
Austin lawyer Buck Wood, representing three former Democratic candidates who were opposed by the association, now has named eight corporations as defendants: AT&T Corp., Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Co., Ace American Insurance Co., Aetna Inc., Connecticut General Life Insurance Co., United Healthcare of Texas, Cigna Healthcare of Texas Inc. and America's Health Insurance Plans.
More corporations might be added as defendants, Wood said.
Lawyers for the association have argued that the ads did not advocate the election or defeat of anyone because they avoided using words such as "elect," "support," "oppose" or "defeat." They said the ads educated voters about the issues.
In his pleadings, Wood argued that is disingenuous.
"Any person of ordinary intelligence would understand that these ads were intended to support or oppose a candidate and are sham issue ads," Wood wrote.
For almost three years, [Travis County DA Ronnie] Earle has investigated the association, and its officers have refused to disclose the identity of the donors.
However, 20 corporate donors were identified in documents that the association was forced to surrender last month as part of the lawsuit. The 20 are thought to represent about two-thirds of the corporations that gave money to TAB.