Chris Bell has asked Travis County DA Ronnie Earle to investigate "whether Texans for Taxpayer Relief’s radio ads constitute an in-kind officeholder contribution illegally paid for by corporate funds that Rick Perry and his representatives appear to have helped raise."
In a letter faxed to the Travis County District Attorney’s Office today, Bell also questioned whether the ads constituted an illegal corporate contribution because they appear coordinated with Rick Perry. The letter cited many apparent examples of coordination, including, but not limited to, an email sent out by a lobbyist claiming that Rick Perry invited lobbyists to hear a pitch by Texans for Taxpayer Relief, which was, according to the email, "formed at the request of the Governor."
Texans for Taxpayer Relief is a dormant political committee out of San Antonio that was recently revived to rally support for the governor's plan. Various business groups, especially those who benefit under the tax swap or who dodged a significant tax increase, have donated $220,000 to the committee so far.
A campaign organized to support Republican Gov. Rick Perry's school finance tax plan has voluntarily released the identities of its donors after coming under fire from Perry's political opponents.
Texans for Taxpayer Relief also is releasing the amounts of contributions received and deposited so far, though organizers say it isn't required under Texas law.
The organization made the announcements Tuesday as it launched two 60-second radio ads in Houston.
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Bell and independent candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn had criticized the school plan ad campaign, saying it was funded by secret donations that would benefit Perry in his re-election bid.
Candidates for state office are required to disclose direct donations to their campaigns in reports to the Texas Ethics Commission.
[Governor Perry's] spokeswoman, Kathy Walt, later said Perry was not involved in creating Texans for Taxpayer Relief and that he hasn't raised money for it.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle said when a complaint is filed by a political opponent his policy is to "monitor the situation" but not take any action until after the election, unless there are extraordinary circumstances.
To date, Texans for Taxpayer Relief said it has received $30,000 from the Texas Apartment Association and $30,000 from the Texas Beer Alliance. Other donors include the Texas Association of Builders, $25,000; Texas Credit Union League, $25,000; Maxxam, $50,000; Texas Motor Transportation Association, $50,000; and Texas Restaurant Association, $10,000.
"This is why we need ethics reform now," said Bell. "Rick Perry is raising corporate money to sell a school finance plan that has no new money for schools."