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A Faerie's Farthing

Flitting through the internets looking for sparkly bits. All content mine and not to be reproduced without permission.

Location: All Material Copyrighted, United States

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Emails, Lawyers and Checks, Oh My!

Emails, Lawyers and Checks, Oh My!

still transferring old stuff over - today is DeLay day!

At this point in our history, "what did he know and when did he know it?" is almost a cliché; it's also rather naive. That is to say, how much (or truthful) of an answer can we really expect in response, especially when asking the person in question directly?

It's not as though it really got anybody anywhere with Nixon and it most certainly isn't going to net any answers from DeLay. He can't even keep the details about being asked to testify before Ronnie Earle straight - at least that's what his lawyers tell us. Perhaps he was a wee too careless with the bug powder dust back in the day...

That could well explain his more outlandish musings, such as the laughable claim that there is no fat left to trim from the federal budget. Or the time he denied knowledge of TRMPAC's general operations but then declared, mere moments later, that everything they did was completely legal and above board, of course.

Unfortunately for DeLay, he's a much better comedian than he is a liar and his chickens of delusional grandeur are coming home to roost. Naturally, the charge of the right brigade is busily trying to downplay the recent felony indictments from Ronnie Earle's Travis County Grand Jury, employing the favored tactic of repeating something often and vociferously in the hopes of making it true.

This time around, the rallying cry is that Ronnie Earle is an "unabashed partisan zealot" and a "rogue prosecutor" out to exact revenge on Delay for contributing to the GOP takeover of the Texas Legislature. "What a martyr Tommy is! How can Earle post such baseless accusations against someone so fine and upstanding?!?!", etc. etc. And that DeLay is completely innocent, of course.

But alas, people get email, or to be more precise, they get ahold of email. And the Washington Post found some doozies!

In May 2001, Enron's top lobbyists in Washington advised the company chairman that then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was pressing for a $100,000 contribution to his political action committee...

DeLay requested that the new donation come from "a combination of corporate and personal money from Enron's executives," with the understanding that it would be partly spent on "the redistricting effort in Texas," said the e-mail to Kenneth L. Lay from lobbyists Rick Shapiro and Linda Robertson.

...Many corporate donors were explicitly told in TRMPAC letters that their donations were not "disclosable" in public records. But documents from several unrelated investigations offer an exceptional glimpse of how corporate money was able to influence state politics -- and also of DeLay's bold use of his network of corporate supporters to advance his agenda.

Ironically, these emails surfaced in an investigation of Enron that ostensibly had nothing to do with DeLay. But these tangled webs may yet land Mr. Hammer in the slammer, especially given that TRMPAC has already been found guilty of violating Texas election laws regarding the use of corporate donations.

...As the TAB case languished on appeal, new facts emerged about the involvement of Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC) in the 2002 campaign. The PAC, founded by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Sugar Land), had filed documents with the IRS that revealed more than $700,000 in corporate contributions that had not been disclosed to the Texas Ethics Commission.

...Plaintiffs alleged that the defendants were active in 21 state House races, including their own, funneling more than half a million dollars of illegal corporate expenditures into the campaigns and not reporting them. While the election code allows for corporate and union cash to be spent on administrative expenses, TRMPAC doled out the money for items that failed to meet that definition, such as polling, direct mail, research, political consultants, fundraising, and printing. Then they failed to report the expenditures with the state.

"TRMPAC held a private reception with candidates at the Republican State Convention paid for with corporate funds, gathered individual campaign plans, worked in tandem with other organizations or PACs, raised corporate money, funded political activity with corporate money and then chose not to report corporate money for political activity to the Texas Ethics Commission," Feldman would detail at trial.

But it was an administrative reception - strictly records management, you understand. It's just that it gets so hard to keep track of all the corporate donations and it would simply be unseemly for the candidates to overlook anyone in writing thank-you notes!

Not to worry; it appears Mr. DeLay took pains to avoid such embarassments. Or at least trade them for other, new embarassments, like the fact that he appears to have been much more involved in those day-to-day operations than he was admitting:

The documents, which were entered into evidence last week in a related civil trial in Austin, the state capital, suggest that Mr. DeLay personally forwarded at least one large corporate check to the committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, and that he was in direct contact with lobbyists for some of the nation's largest companies on the committee's behalf.

...Last September, the grand jury indicted two men close to Mr. DeLay: Mr. RoBold, a major fund-raiser for the Texas committee and for Mr. DeLay's national political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority; and James W. Ellis, the national committee's director and one of Mr. DeLay's closest political operatives. The Texas committee's executive director, John Colyandro, was also indicted.

Prosecutors accused them of being part of a scheme at the committee to funnel large corporate donations illegally to state Republican candidates in the months before the 2002 elections in Texas, in which Republicans took control of the State Legislature.

The 2002 elections in Texas had national significance, since they allowed Republicans to redraw the state's Congressional districts, benefiting Mr. DeLay by solidifying Republican control of the House.

Which brings us full web circle to the recent indictments against Mr. "Federal Government" Delay, which hold that he knowingly violated Texas election law. Given the history of indictments and civil court cases against TRMPAC and its officers, one would think DeLay's case would be indefensible. But one would, to come full circle again, be naive. Take, for example, an editorial featured at Focus on the Family, which I will neither link nor quote.

But I will post the rebuttal, written by Cris Feldman, which, like those emails, is a doozie. Feldman is working on the current case involving DeLay and TRMPAC and was also part of the previous successful case brought before Judge Hart.

Your May 11, 2005, posting at the Focus on the Family website entitled, "The Real Ethics Scandal," misstates basic facts and Texas law. As I am one of the lawyers handling the civil case involving Tom Delay's Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee ("TRMPAC"), I thought you might find it helpful for me to correct certain misunderstandings of Texas law and the facts in the TRMPAC case.

...It would seem that your posting was designed to provide political talking points, as opposed to serious legal analysis. However, if your posting was a sincere attempt at explaining Texas law and certain facts, I would welcome the opportunity to publicly debate you any time, in any place, on the subject of TRMPAC's illegal acts. I would be happy to fly to Washington, DC to do so. At that time we could discuss Texas election law and the facts surrounding the corporate money scandal which compromised the integrity of the 2002 Texas state elections. I am sure we can arrange something for June. Let me know.

I hope he doesn't hold his breath waiting for a response. That would be naive.


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