A lawyer for Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick reversed himself Tuesday, saying the Midland Republican specified that he wanted his $250,000 donation to a political committee to go to several House Democrats who supported him.
When Travis County prosecutors began investigating the donations last month, Austin lawyer Roy Minton denied that Craddick had directed how the donation to the committee, Texas Jobs & Opportunity Build a Secure Future, should be spent.
On Tuesday, Minton said Christi Craddick, the speaker’s daughter, who runs his political operation, wrote the Texas Jobs committee a letter in January asking it to give $50,000 each to four Democratic incumbents who had opponents in the March 4 primaries.
“Of course, they were happy to do it,” Minton said. “Tom knew everything that was going on.”
Minton said that his remarks last month were his mistake and that he had turned Christi Craddick’s letter over to prosecutors as part of a package of records that had been subpoenaed.
Austin lawyer Buck Wood said the speaker’s statute, which he helped write in the 1970s, is being misconstrued in some quarters.
He said the law doesn’t prohibit a lawmaker — even a speaker candidate — from donating to a colleague’s campaign. But he said a jury would have to weigh the facts of each case to determine whether the donations were intended to aid or defeat a speaker’s candidate.
He said it would be difficult to convince a jury that a member giving $1,000 was influencing the speaker’s election.
In Craddick’s instance, Wood said, “It’s the totality of the circumstances.”
The Texas Jobs political committee had been mostly dormant throughout 2007 before it was renamed and revitalized this winter with the $250,000 from Craddick’s campaign account. The size of the donations, plus whether Craddick directed where the money should go, also would be considered, Wood said.
Minton disagreed with Wood, saying there is no prohibition in the law against a donor asking a committee to send the money to a certain candidate.
“He’s letting his liberal politics get in the way of what the law is,” Minton said.
That sounds like a fact for a jury to decide. Assuming this gets that far, of course.