The treasurer for Texans for a Republican Majority, a political committee at the heart of almost four years of criminal investigations and civil litigation, has paid $65,000 to former Democratic candidates in an attempt to end his role in the campaign finance saga.
During the 2002 elections, former Dallas lawmaker Bill Ceverha was treasurer of the committee founded by former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay. Ceverha filed for personal bankruptcy last fall after a judge ruled he had violated state law by failing to disclose $600,000 of corporate money the committee spent to defeat Democrats.
Ceverha always maintained he did nothing wrong, but he filed for bankruptcy as an attempt to remove himself from years of appeals and other lawsuits. The Democrats, however, claimed his bankruptcy was a sham, arguing that Ceverha had transferred assets and paid "friendly creditors" to deny claims by the Democratic candidates.
Earlier this month, the two sides reached a settlement that allowed Ceverha to complete bankruptcy. He paid almost a third of the $196,660 in damages that a judge awarded five Democratic candidates, including Austin's Ann Kitchen, a former legislator defeated in 2002.
"Enough is enough," Ceverha said of the settlement. "This has been too much of a strain on me, my family and my activities."
"TRMPAC was an effort by Tom DeLay and his gang to rob working Texans of a voice at the state Capitol and to consolidate their power," lawyer Cris Feldman said. "For us, it was never a case about money. It was a case about whether the state's highest public officials and large corporate interests are above the law, and whether Texas law permits secret corporate cash in elections."
Testimony indicated Ceverha raised money for the Republican committee but served primarily in a figurehead role as treasurer. Although the testimony indicated Colyandro and the committee's accountant, not Ceverha, prepared the committee's public reports, Ceverha was responsible under the law for the accuracy of the reports.
Democrats have targeted Ceverha, who serves as a board member for the state's Employee Retirement System, for accepting checks as gifts without reporting the amount. Although the Texas Ethics Commission said Ceverha didn't have to disclose it, Ceverha finally revealed that Houston homebuilder Bob Perry gave him $100,000, after taxes, during 2004 and 2005 to help with his legal fees.
Critics, led by Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, say such cash gifts give the appearance of impropriety.