I'd heard a rumor that this was coming down, though to be honest I thought they'd be indicting people instead of the organizations.
The Texas Association of Business and Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee have been indicted on charges of illegally using corporate money to help Republicans win control of the Texas Legislature in 2002.
The indictments, released publicly this morning, include 128 counts against the business group and two against the political action committee, which was created by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land.
The Travis County grand jury that issued the indictments, however, took no action against the Texas Association of Business' president, Bill Hammond, or any other officials with the group today.
If convicted, the state's largest business group faces the threat of fines — up to $20,000 for each count. But the indictments also complicate the group's defense against civil lawsuits filed by losing Democratic candidates. Damages in those suits could be double the $1.7 million that the association spent on 4 million mailers to voters in 2002.
The four indictments against the business group — two of which were issued last month and then sealed — break down the counts by different actions the group took. They include:
•14 counts of prohibited political contributions by a corporation (TAB) for paying Hammond and staffer Jack Campbell to do political work.
•28 additional counts for fraudulently soliciting money from corporations to use in the 2002 election..
•83 additional counts of prohibited political contributions by a corporation for paying for political mailers and TV commercials.
•Three counts of prohibited political expenditures by a corporation for spending money in connection with 23 legislative campaigns.
All the counts are third-degree felonies.
TRMPAC, in the lone indictment against it, is charged with two counts of illegally accepting corporate donations, including $100,000 from the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care.
Texas House speaker candidate Tom Craddick collected that check at a Houston restaurant days before the 2002 election. He has said he didn't know the amount of the check and was just passing it along to the PAC.
Craddick, who became speaker after Republicans took control in the 2002 elections, was not named in the indictments.
UPDATE: Here's an intriguing tidbit from Bloomberg:
DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden said the indictment of the PAC is "limited to a political organization and does not affect Mr. DeLay." Madden said DeLay voluntarily spoke with the district attorney's office last month about the inquiry and told them his role in the PAC was limited to serving on its advisory board and appearing at fund raisers, Madden said.
Today, the Texas Association of Business (TAB) and Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC) were indicted for 130 charges of criminal campaign activities stemming from conduct during the 2002 general election.
Although they were not named individually, the indictments themselves involve activities and organizations that point directly to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, and Governor Rick Perry.
“Today’s indictments show how a handful of operatives working for Texas Republicans orchestrated a scheme to launder illegal corporate contributions to help Republican candidates in the 2002 elections,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting.
“When they needed help in 2002, Tom DeLay, Tom Craddick, and the Governor’s cronies engaged these corrupt special interest groups in this illegal scheme, and the people of Texas have paid the price ever since,” he added.
Although none of the officeholders were named in the indictments, the substance of the charges points directly to them, Soechting explained, noting that Tom DeLay was the founder of TRMPAC and the direct involvement of Speaker Craddick and the Governor’s future Chief of Staff Mike Toomey in activities specifically spelled out in the indictments.
“The groups named in today’s indictments participated in this illegal scheme for one reason – they expected a payoff in the 2003 legislative session, and they got it in the form of congressional redistricting, tort reform, and attempts to pass private school vouchers,” Soechting said.
“The Republicans chose to play a corrupt ‘pay to play’ game, and in 2006, Texas voters have the opportunity to make them pay the price,” Soechting concluded.Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 08, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack