Those amazing money mazesJust coincidence
By RICK CASEY, Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
MONEY Maze 1: About two weeks before last November's election, the executive director of Texans For a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, a PAC organized by U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, caused 14 checks totalling $152,000 to be written to Republican candidates for the Texas House of Representatives.
Rather than hand deliver the checks or trust them to a private courier or the U.S. Mail, the PAC followed the tried-and-true dictum: If you want to make sure something gets done, ask a busy person to do it.
Their choice was state Rep. Tom Craddick, who was busy running for speaker of the House. Yet he found time to run down the 14 candidates (many of them incumbents) and present them with very generous checks.
Houston Reps. Martha Wong and Dwayne Bohac, for example, received $20,000 and $10,000 respectively.
Craddick, through a spokesman, wants you to know that there was "no quid pro quo."
I'm sure Craddick made no demands on the candidates as he handed them the checks.
He didn't need to.
In state representative races, checks ending with four zeros speak so loudly that accompanying words are mere formalities.
Checks of that magnitude say two things in the clearest possible terms:
- One: The people who gave me this check can be very helpful to me in the future if I stay on their good side.
- Two: They can be very helpful to my opponent if I don't.
Receiving a check from DeLay's PAC delivered by Craddick may violate at least the spirit of a strict law passed in the wake of an earlier scandal.
The law says no union, company or committee may contribute anything of value to assist a candidate for speaker. Violation is a felony.
Making Craddick the bearer of $152,000 in good news is of some considerable value.
There should have been heightened sensitivities regarding following the rules in the speaker's race. In August 2001, as competition for speaker began, Austin journalist Harvey Kronberg, whose "Quorum Report" Web site is must reading for Capitol players, warned that he was hearing rumors of activities that might violate the law. He even posted the law on the Web site.
After listing a number of rumored activities, he concluded that they "may be prosecutable by the Travis County district attorney and his Public Integrity Unit."
Money Maze 2: That very same DeLay Texans for a Republican Majority PAC had a problem. It had raised $600,000 from corporations around the country that wanted the U.S. House majority leader to like them. But Texas law prohibits state candidates from receiving corporate money.
The PAC sent $190,000 to the Republican National Committee in September 2002.
In the next three weeks, the RNC issued checks totalling exactly $190,000 to seven Texas House candidates who were being supported by DeLay.
Money laundering? No, RNC spokesman Jim Dyke told the Dallas Morning News. It was a "coincidence."
What are the odds of such a coincidence? About the same as my winning the lottery.
And I don't buy tickets.
Travis County DA Ronnie Earle is investigating this money trail, too, in what is being called a partisan probe because he is a Democrat.
If Earle were a Republican DA and didn't investigate, that decision would not be partisan.
It would be -- all together now -- a coincidence.