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AusChron all over TRMPAC

Timing is everything when you’re a weekly publication and a big story breaks. The TRMPAC indictments came down last week too close to the Austin Chronicle’s publication date for them to have anything about it, but they made up for that this time around. Check out this article on affected State Rep races, this one about where the grand jury goes next, this enumeration of the indictments, and this piece about the campaign finance reform ads being run by Clean Up Texas Politics.

On a related note, former Austin mayor and Democratic candidate for Attorney General in 2002 Kirk Watson has filed suit against the Law Enforcement Alliance of America for its role in his electoral defeat.

Watson and East Texas legislative candidate Mike Head, both Democrats, filed the lawsuit in state District Court in Travis County against the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, based in Falls Church, Va.; its undisclosed corporate donors; “John Doe conspirators” who assisted in the ad campaigns; and John Colyandro, the former executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority, who also advised Watson’s opponent, Greg Abbott, during the 2002 elections.

The lawsuit, opening another front in the escalating campaign finance controversy, says corporate-financed advertising tainted the 2002 elections and says that the alliance violated Texas law by not disclosing its donors. State law generally prohibits corporate or labor money from being spent on political expenditures.


The alliance spent an estimated $1.5 million on a TV commercial aired around the state in the final days of the 2002 campaign. The commercial attacked Watson as a personal injury trial lawyer who “made millions suing doctors, hospitals and small businesses.”


Created 13 years ago, the alliance was largely financed by the National Rifle Association to counter law enforcement groups that supported gun control laws. Since 2002, the alliance has raised eyebrows by becoming involved in campaigns in Texas, Mississippi, Kansas and Pennsylvania.

An unidentified benefactor or benefactors funneled $4.5 million through the alliance in 2002, according to tax records, paying for attack ads in several states. The TV blitzes rarely reflected the alliance’s priorities, such as arming airline pilots and allowing off-duty and retired police officers to carry concealed guns. Travis County prosecutors hypothesize that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with ties to the Texas Association of Business, is the alliance’s mystery benefactor.

I was very skeptical when four losing State House candidates filed a lawsuit on similar grounds against the Texas Association of Business shortly after the 2002 election, but evidence from that still-pending lawsuit helped lead to the TRMPAC indictments, and TAB is next in line for the grand jury. Given that, I’m very interested to see where this lawsuit goes. It’s all too late to undo the effect of the alleged wrongdoing, of course, but it’s still better than nothing.

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  1. “Plead Ignorance”

    Austin Chronicle: “Unlike other organizations,” the corporate pitch clumsily promised, “your corporate contribution to TRMPAC will be put to productive use. Rather than just paying for overhead, your support will fund a series of productive and innova…