House Speaker Tom Craddick recently threw a bunch of money to three of his Democratic supporters in their efforts to fend off primary challengers - Rick Casey made note of it last week - and he may have landed himself in some trouble for it. The watchdog group Texans for Public Justice has filed a complaint with the Travis County DA's office, alleging that Craddick is illegally trying to influence the Speaker's race.
At issue are three $50,000 donations from Craddick, a Midland Republican, through a political committee to three House members, all Democrats and Craddick supporters facing re-election challenges within their party. A fourth Democrat, Austin Rep. Dawnna Dukes, turned down the money.
Craig McDonald with Texans for Public Justice, a campaign finance watchdog group, filed the complaint with Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle.
McDonald's complaint suggests Craddick violated state law by channeling money to the three Democrats last month.
On Jan. 10, according to campaign finance reports, Craddick revitalized a dormant political committee, Texans for Jobs & Opportunity Build a Secure Future, with a $250,000 donation from his campaign account.
It was the only money the political committee had when it made the $50,000 donations the next day to Reps. Aaron Pena of Edinburg, Ismael "Kino" Flores of Palmville and Kevin Bailey of Houston, according to campaign finance reports cited in the complaint. The three men are past supporters of Craddick, who appointed them chairmen of House committees.
McDonald's complaint suggests the transaction violated the so-called speaker's statute that prohibits anyone, including a speaker's candidate, from spending campaign donations to aid or defeat a speaker candidate.
The law also lists acceptable expenditures for a speaker's candidate to make with his campaign money. Donations to other candidates, according to the complaint, is not one of them.
In essence, McDonald is suggesting Craddick made the donations through the committee to aid his own re-election as speaker and not just to support the three Democrats.