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Texas: TRMPAC trial over, waiting for the decision

The Austin Chronicle reports: As one of the defense attorneys in a campaign finance trial noted in his closing argument last week, the outcome of the long-running dispute over corporate money and Texas politics could spawn a whole new growth industry for law firms from here to Washington, D.C. The irony of that comment was not lost on the half-dozen lawyers seated in the spectator gallery who, even as silent observers, were already on the clock. Among the most expensive (though hardly silent) trial watchers was prominent state Republican consigliere Andy Taylor, who, during a midmorning break last Thursday, summoned reporters mingling outside the courtroom to announce that seven of the state's wealthiest political donors had retained his services to lobby for "clarity" in the state's 100-year-old-plus election laws ....

With the high-profile trial wrapped up and the courthouse emptied of political reporters, lawyers on both sides have resigned themselves to an anticipated two- to six-week wait for State District Court Judge Joe Hart to render a decision in the civil case that took attorneys two years to build and five days to argue. No matter how Hart rules, the trial court is undoubtedly just the starting point for a long appeals process. At every stop, the legal questions will center on whether the political action committee Texans for a Republican Majority violated state election laws in its quest to ensure the GOP takeover of the Texas Legislature in the 2002 elections. TRMPAC achieved its goal of a Republican sweep, but not without cost. Five Democrats, including former Austin Rep. Ann Kitchen, subsequently sued three TRMPAC officers after losing their races to Republican candidates who benefited from the PAC's efforts. Two of the original three defendants – John Colyandro and Jim Ellis – were severed from the civil suit because they also face criminal charges of money-laundering in connection with the group's election drive. That left only co-defendant and TRMPAC treasurer Bill Ceverha to face their accusers. -- The Austin Chronicle: News: So What Now?