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Texas: TRMPAC exhibits show "influence peddling"

The Texas Observer reports: "Unlike other organizations, your corporate contributions to TRMPAC will be put to productive use,” reads the document subpoenaed from Texans for a Republican Majority Executive Director John Colyandro. It’s one of hundreds of exhibits offered into evidence for a recent civil trial—and presumedly, presented to the Travis County grand jury for its ongoing criminal investigation as well. The political brochure—paid for with corporate money—was aimed at donors to the Tom DeLay-founded PAC, and titled “TRMPAC GOALS.”

What, you may ask, made TRMPAC so “productive” that it could accomplish what “other” political organizations had been unable to do in a century of political campaigning?

It continues: “Rather than just paying for overhead, your support will fund a series of productive and innovative activities designed to increase our level of engagement in the political arena.”

Specifically, TRMPAC took corporate money in 2002 from companies with business before the Texas Legislature or the U.S. Congress and used it for fund-raising, phone banks, polling, and campaign support for individual state candidates. The interpretation of what constituted legal administrative expenses—up until now—consisted primarily of items such as rent, utilities, and clerical needs. Spending corporate or union money on candidates has been illegal in Texas since 1905, when farsighted legislators recognized that if the vast treasuries of corporations and unions were applied to elections, they could easily overwhelm our democratic system.

All told, TRMPAC spent $1.5 million, of which more than $600,000 was undeclared corporate money. (The PAC’s use of corporate cash went unreported to the Texas Ethics Commission.) TRMPAC documents, entered as exhibits during a week-long civil trial brought by losing Democratic candidates that ended March 4, refer to the historic opportunity that presented itself in 2002. (At press time, Senior District Judge Joe Hart, before whom the case was tried, had yet to reach a verdict.) Redistricting in 2001 had created new, solidly Republican House districts. And a number of corporate interests were bursting with pent-up desire for goodies past legislatures had failed to bestow. -- TRMPAC in Its Own Words, 4/1/2005 - The Texas Observer