October 14, 2005
Phone calls and more subpoenas

The subpoenas continue to fly in and out of Travis County.


Travis County prosecutors subpoenaed telephone records for DeLay's home, mobile phone and campaign office from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2002.

District Attorney Ronnie Earle also sought telephone records for DeLay's daughter, Dani DeLay Ferro, who served as a fundraiser for both DeLay's national Americans for a Republican Majority, ARMPAC, and the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority, TRMPAC.


This AP wire story has more on this.

The subpoenas list telephone numbers, but not whom they belong to. They ask for information about the calls and the numbers' subscribers, voice mail service, billing information, long-distance calls made from or charged to the numbers and special features.

"The thing is no big deal," said Bill White, Austin attorney for DeLay.

Earle's office declined to comment on the subpoenas. He has said the investigation is continuing.

Earle is seeking the records and information from Sept. 1, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2002, the period when a political committee founded by DeLay, Texans for a Republican Majority, was raising money for the 2002 election cycle.

He also wants Toyota Motor Credit Corp. of Torrance, Calif., to turn over records on a 2004 Toyota Sienna Earle alleges was bought by DeLay. White said the minivan was leased as a campaign car in 2003, well after the fundraising for the Texas committee.

[...]

This is not the first time a subpoena has been issued involving DeLay's daughter, a political consultant. She was subpoenaed in early 2004 to appear before a grand jury and bring records of work she did for TRMPAC.

Calls to one number for Ferro seeking comment went to voice mail. A man who answered a second number for her declined comment.

Earle also subpoenaed records from a phone number for Ellis' 12-year-old daughter and for CAD Affiliates, a technology company in a town near Sugar Land, a Houston suburb that is DeLay's hometown.

Ed Crowell, owner of CAD Affiliates, said DeLay's campaign office shared a building with him once but his company was not associated with DeLay. He said he was not a contributor and has heard from DeLay only when he gets recorded campaign calls at home.

"I've never seen the man. I may have seen him in the grocery store," Crowell said.


Getting back to the first story, the FEC has released some documents from another of DeLay's PACs which indicate they spent corporate money to influence Congressional elections elsewhere in the country in 2002.

Federal Election Commission audit documents released Thursday indicate U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's national leadership committee pushed the limits of federal law in 2002 by spending almost $100,000 in corporate money to affect the outcome of five congressional races.

[...]

ARMPAC was cited for reporting violations by the FEC in August in an audit indicating the committee may have spent more than $200,000 in restricted corporate money in 2001 and 2002 on federal political activities.

The audit made no recommendations on whether the FEC should pursue an enforcement action against ARMPAC.

Records from the audit were made public Thursday by Political Money Line, a tracking service, showing ARMPAC paid $96,551 in restricted corporate money to Federal Capital Communications Corp. on Nov. 7, 2002, to pay for 145,348 direct mail pieces that were sent in five congressional races. It is unclear whether the money was included in what the FEC cited as reporting problems.

The mailings were sent a week before the elections in races in Florida, Kansas, Iowa and two in Indiana. A sample of one mailing was included in the documents.


You can see the documents here and here.

Federal law forbids the use of corporate money to specifically advocate for a candidate.

But numerous political organizations got around the so-called soft money rule by using corporate money to pay for "issue advocacy" advertisements that told voters how a candidate stood on a specific issue.

Federal election law has since changed to severely limit such issue advertising, and federal courts have ruled that the FEC can look at the totality of circumstances to rule whether issue advertising was meant to affect the outcome of an election.

Political Money Line co-founder Kent Cooper said it would be up to the FEC to determine whether the ARMPAC ads violated federal law.

ARMPAC Executive Director Jim Ellis and lawyer Donald McGahn did not return calls for comment. DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty said the latest documents prove nothing.

"These items were all disclosed in compliance with federal campaign law, the transactions were legal, and this happened three years ago," she said. "This is just a flashback masked as breaking news."


Always breaking new ground, that's our Tommy.

Meanwhile, a different gray area in campaign law is allowing an anonymous group to give DeLay a taste of his own medicine.


Using new technology to exploit gray areas in election law, a mystery group has been making anonymous, automated calls to voters in Republican congressional districts across the country, telling them that their representatives should return money received from Rep. Tom DeLay's political action committee.

Officials from national Democratic and Republican organizations say they cannot determine who is behind the group, which calls itself We the People. The calls began shortly after DeLay was indicted by two Travis County grand juries on a conspiracy charge and a money-laundering charge late last month and forced to step aside as House majority leader.

"Although we don't have a face behind the name, it seems to go along with the Democratic strategy" of targeting DeLay, said Ben Porritt, a spokesman for the Sugar Land Republican.

Under federal election law, caller identification is typically required for political calls that solicit contributions, advocate support for a candidate, or are paid for by a candidate or political committee.

Unless We the People falls into the last category which is unknown because the group has no Web site, phone number or organizational listing the calls would appear to be legal, said Federal Election Commission spokesman George Smaragdis.

Joe Birkenstock, an attorney who specializes in election law at the Washington, D.C.-based firm of Caplin & Drysdale, said that "people have the right to do anonymous political activities, but there are some open questions. There are gray areas all over election law."

Former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith said there recently has been "quite a bit of concern about this type of behavior, but (federal law) really limits the ability of the commission to do much."


I sure hope this is being done in a legal fashion, whoever's behind it. I don't like anonymous attacks, and if it turns out We the People are breaking the law, then they deserve whatever punishment they get. I don't have any sympathy for the targeted Congressfolk, who should be outed about their continued support for DeLay, but this is not the way I'd have chosen to do it.

Meanwhile, Karl-T reports on those anti-Earle ads now running in Austin, where I'm so sure they'll have a great effect. Think Progress has some context.

Finally, John Dean reviews the charges and countercharges so far, and finds things for people on all sides to worry about. Link via Avedon.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 14, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack
Comments

You're "so sure" they'll have great effect or "[not] so sure?"

Posted by: David in NY on October 14, 2005 3:57 PM

David - Sorry, that was supposed to be sarcasm. Clearly, the next revision of HTML needs a tag for that. :-)

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on October 14, 2005 4:33 PM