Speaker's election records subpoenaedBy Laylan Copelin, Austin American-Statesman
Friday, February 20, 2004
Tom Craddick and six of his top lieutenants were ordered Thursday to give records from the 2002 race for Texas House speaker to Travis County prosecutors, who confirmed that they have expanded a criminal investigation related to the historic elections that helped produce the state's first Republican speaker in modern times.
"We intend to fully comply with the summons and cooperate with the DA's office," Craddick said in a written statement. "I am happy to have helped elect a Republican majority -- as I have tried to do since I was first elected to the House in 1968."
Subpoenas for documents also were issued to Republican state Reps. Kent Grusendorf of Arlington, Beverly Woolley of Houston, Dianne White Delisi of Temple, Phil King of Weatherford, Arlene Wohlgemuth of Burleson and Mike Krusee of Round Rock.
Krusee didn't immediately return a telephone call for comment.
Craddick has hired veteran Austin lawyer Roy Minton.
"There was a summons issued for him to come up with the pledge cards he received and other documents, and he will cooperate completely and comply with the district attorney's office," Minton told The Associated Press.
The subpoenas come after reports that Craddick helped Texans for a Republican Majority raise and deliver campaign funds to Republican candidates who went on to vote for him as speaker. A spokesman for Craddick said the money was distributed after Craddick had already secured most of his Republican votes.
A state law bars outside groups from trying to influence the internal House election, either directly or indirectly. It also is illegal for a speaker candidate to knowingly accept a group's help.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle acknowledged that an ongoing investigation of Texans for a Republican Majority has been broadened, but declined to discuss specifics.
It's illegal for corporate money to be used for political expenditures. Prosecutors say Texans for a Republican Majority illegally used corporate donations to help Republican candidates in two dozen House races. The Texas Association of Business is under investigation for similar allegations. Both groups have denied wrongdoing.
Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, a group that monitors campaign spending, cheered Earle's move.
"Texans have the right to know the extent to which Rep. Craddick may have participated in questionable or illegal campaign activities -- activities which served as a springboard to the speaker's job," McDonald said.
Craddick for years spearheaded efforts to get more Republicans elected to the House in order to unseat Speaker Pete Laney, D-Hale Center.
For the 2002 elections -- when the GOP seemed certain to win a majority because of redistricting -- Craddick said he distanced himself from that campaign.
With the exception of headlining a fund-raiser for the Republican majority group, Craddick said he stayed away from the group's work to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest between his campaign for speaker and the committee's goal of electing more Republicans.
The committee was formed by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. He wanted to elect a Republican majority that would redraw congressional district lines to send more Texas Republicans to Congress.
As part of its efforts, the committee sent Craddick $152,000 in checks ranging from $1,000 to $20,000 to give to 14 legislative candidates.
Meanwhile, Warren Robold, DeLay's Washington fund-raiser, persuaded Union Pacific Railroad to donate $25,000 to 11 of the legislative candidates. Texans for a Republican Majority wanted to accompany Union Pacific's lobbyist to distribute the railroad company's checks, a Union Pacific spokeswoman said earlier this week. In the end, Union Pacific's lobbyist called his friend Craddick, who helped pass out the checks to candidates.