Two Toms' money trailWaco Tribue Herald Editorial
March 1, 2004
When it comes to campaign finance, Texas very much remains the untamed frontier. Limitations are few. Horizons are broad for interest buying.
Nonetheless, two of Texas' most powerful, and well-financed, elected officials are facing a legal inquiry about crossing the line: Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick and U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
Texas doesn't have many rules about political money, but here are two: (1) corporations can't give to elected officials or candidates for statehouse; (2) an elected official cannot buy another's vote.
DeLay and Craddick owe explanations as to whether they have committed the first offense and whether Craddick committed the second offense in his quest to become speaker of the Texas House.
Craddick's records have been subpoenaed by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle in an investigation over whether he obtained votes to become speaker through contributions from a corporate-heavy political action committee set up by DeLay called Texans for a Republican Majority.
If there's a smoking gun on this matter it may be the day in 2002 when DeLay's PAC donated $190,000 to the Republican National Committee, which turned right around and donated that amount to seven Republican Texas House campaigns.
That has the foul appearance of money laundering.
Also, Craddick personally handed out $152,000 in checks to incumbents and candidates for House seats. He says it had nothing to do with his bid to become speaker.
It may be hard to prove any such intent and therefore illegality. That doesn't mean the practice isn't offensive.
As for the issue of money laundering, it hardly matters if corporate dollars went through an intermediary when it is clear which corporations gave and they are seeking to influence policy. That's why it's illegal.
It's good to see the Travis County D.A. pursuing this matter. Texas has so little that limits campaign finance. If questionable practices like these persist, Texas has no way of curbing the selling of state government.