Official explains blank checkThere was no illegal exchange, DeLay aide says
By Laylan Copelin, Austin American-Statesman
Tuesday, April 6, 2004
A key official with Texans for a Republican Majority tried to fill in the blanks Monday about the organization's blank check that became the $190,000 that Republicans defend as a coincidence and Democrats decry as money laundering.
During the final weeks of the 2002 election, officials at the Republican National Committee sent $190,000 in donations to seven Texas House candidates after Texans for a Republican Majority sent the same amount in corporate donations to the national group. The corporate money could not be legally donated to the candidates.
That John Colyandro, executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority, first sent a blank check to Jim Ellis, his Washington counterpart, only added to the mystery.
In a letter from his lawyer, Ellis said Monday that the check was blank because Colyandro had hoped to make a round $200,000 donation for "party building activities at the state and federal level" but wasn't sure he would receive the necessary last-minute donations.
Colyandro's fund-raising fell short, Ellis said, so he filled in the $190,000 before delivering the check to the Republican National Committee.
Ellis, who helped create the Texas group, said he did not negotiate the sum with Republican National Committee officials before delivering the check. He also said he did not participate in any negotiations over the national committee's decision to donate money to Texas candidates.
Austin lawyer Cris Feldman, who is suing Ellis on behalf of four Democratic candidates, remains unconvinced: "Ellis' 'coincidence defense' regarding the laundering of $190,000 is as believable as a grade-schooler saying, 'The dog ate my homework.' "