June 11, 2005
Coverage of TAB ruling

Here's the Chron story on yesterday's ruling by the Texas Supreme Court that the Texas Association of Business must disclose information about how it raised money in 2002.

The Supreme Court, without comment, lifted a stay it had issued on Jan. 28, 2004.

"All the information we requested is due right now," said Buck Wood, who represents James Sylvester of Austin, a Democratic candidate who was defeated in the November 2002 general election for District 50 in Travis County. "I'm sending a letter giving them a week."

Sylvester, a Travis County deputy sheriff, was the subject of mailings from the business group that questioned his ethics in following Texas campaign laws.

Sylvester was one of several defeated candidates who sued the TAB after the election, accusing it of violating election laws by spending $1.9 million of corporate money on mailings to voters.

The business group has responded that its efforts were constitutionally protected voter education activities that did not urge voters to support or oppose any candidates.

Andy Taylor, a Houston attorney who represents the TAB and its president, Bill Hammond, said the court's ruling does not require the group to disclose donors' identities.

"TAB has refused to identify its donors in order to protect them from vilification and frivolous litigation," said Taylor.

Taylor said the TAB has not yet decided whether to ask the Supreme Court for a rehearing.

Wood is asking for communications that were used to raise the money, the number and amount of donations, the date donations were made and whether the donor was a member of the TAB. He said he believes the answers will show that the group should have formed a political action committee and disclosed its donors.

The TAB targeted 22 Texas House races, with its endorsed candidates winning 18 of those contests. The wins were key to the Republican takeover of the House.

More from the Morning News:

In ruling against the state's largest business group, the high court Friday directed the association to turn over information about its corporate solicitations used for 4 million mail pieces sent to voters that generally berated Democrats and touted Republicans.

The information is also at the heart of a Travis County grand jury investigation. The grand jury already has indicted three associates of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in connection with the use of corporate money by a separate political action committee to elect Republicans.

Attorney Buck Wood had sued the association on behalf of three Democratic legislative candidates who lost.

In his civil suit against the group and its president, Bill Hammond, Mr. Wood has sought information about the number of corporations giving money, how much they gave and how decisions were made within the organization.

Mr. Wood said the court decision would trigger the first in a series of "falling dominoes" in his bid to prove the business group broke the law by running a secretly funded political campaign.

"This activity of soliciting money to support or defeat candidates made them, under Texas law, a political action committee," he said. "Once you are a political action committee, it has to be reported."

Andy Taylor, an attorney representing the Texas Association of Business, said the group "is prepared to release the information."

He noted that under the ruling, the identity of the corporate donors would remain secret.

The civil suit did not specifically seek the names of the corporate donors, only how many there were. Mr. Wood said Friday he's confident he will be able to identify the contributors once he reviews the material.

May I just say that I sincerely hope Buck Wood enlightens the rest of us once he's figured it out? Thanks.

There's a little bit more here, including some bravado from Bill Hammond that his group will Never! Ever! give up its secrets. He's so cute when he's losing, isn't he? Jesse noted my fear about how one can never be certain how plaintiffs against bidness will be treated by the Texas Supremes, but so far, so good.

(And boy howdy am I glad to have a working cable modem again. Thank you, AOLTimeWarner of Borg for not making me wait any longer to get this fixed.)

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 11, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack