November 17, 2005
Republican Party of Texas agrees to obey the law

It's just so hard to keep up with all the wrongdoing these days.

The Republican Party of Texas avoided prosecution Thursday by agreeing to stop using corporate money in several ways being investigated by Travis County Attorney David Escamilla.

Escamilla's investigation, which is similar to allegations being pursued by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle against U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and the Texas Association of Business, is put on hold through March 31, 2007. In return, the Republican Party agrees to stop using corporate money the way it did during the 2002 election. The party's administrative expenses spiked five-fold to about $5.6 million that year.

State law generally prohibits corporate money being spent in connection with campaigns. The law allows political parities to spend corporate money to run their conventions and on administrative overhead. Escamilla had studied some 27,000 GOP documents, but his investigation in the end focused on three instances of using corporate money:

•To pay for political consulting.

•To pay postage for voter registration materials that include the slate of GOP candidates.

•To produce a mailer urging voters to cast ballots early.

Under the agreement, called deferred prosecution, the Republican Party of Texas agreed not to use corporate money for so-called issue ads that mention a state candidate; to follow federal campaign finance restrictions against using corporate money in the final 60 days of an election to aid a federal candidate; to file the party's campaign finance reports electronically; and to specifically describe every transaction on its reports.

I don't know how to describe this any better than Lindsay has: In return for not being prosecuted for breaking the law, the Republican Party of Texas has agreed to not break the law. It's true that they didn't admit to breaking the law, but they apparently don't want to have to prove in court that they didn't break the law. So there you have it.

I admit that I didn't know about this particular investigation. I'm also a little puzzled as to why it was conducted by the County Attorney instead of the District Attorney - looking at the laws that define the duties of DAs and CAs, it appears to be a question of what court the case is heard in. If someone with actual knowledge of the distinction here could clarify things, I'd appreciate it.

A statement about this agreement by Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting is beneath the fold.

On a related matter, this Statesman article gives an overview of who's charged with what in the TRMPAC business, and attempts to explain why some people are being charged and others (especially Tom Craddick) are not.

UPDATE: Houtopia is not impressed.

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting issued the following statement regarding the deferred prosecution agreement entered into today by the Republican Party of Texas regarding the illegal corporate expenditure practices.

"Both political parties have an ethical and legal responsibility to accept and spend corporate funds for a very limited set of administrative activities spelled out in the Texas Election Code, and by carefully following the law, the Texas Democratic Party has demonstrated that a political party can conduct its activities in a responsible, ethical manner."

"Unfortunately, we learned today that in 2002, the Republican Party of Texas arrogantly flouted and violated the law, following the footsteps of leaders like Tom DeLay to use corporate funds for blatantly political purposes, including paying for political consultants, postage for voter registration materials that included Republican candidates, and producing an early vote mailer."

"The activities engaged in by the Republican Party of Texas are strikingly similar to the political activities supported by corporate funds raised by TRMPAC and the Texas Association of Business."

"We encourage Tom DeLay to follow the example set by the Republican Party of Texas and save the taxpayers a lot of legal expenses by entering a plea and admitting his obvious violations of the law."

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 17, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

"...the Republican Party of Texas agreed not to use corporate money for so-called issue ads that mention a state candidate..."

How did they define "state candidate"? Is that the same as "state-wide" or any candidate for "state office"? Looks like the devil is lurking in the details...

Posted by: texxasredd on November 18, 2005 8:07 AM