Before the fallThe unfinished story of Texans for a Republican Majority contains the elements necessary for Greek tragedy: hubris and overreaching.
Sept. 23, 2004
Classical mythology is replete with tales of heroes and kings, rulers and the oppressed who flew too high, reached too far, wanted too much, flouted the rules and ignored the odds. The unfinished story of the political action committee Texans for a Republican Majority has not yet reached mythological proportions, but it contains some of the elements of Greek tragedy.
The organization was founded by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to help Republican candidates for the Texas House. Success came in 2000, when Texans elected a Republican House majority for the first time since Reconstruction. That success allowed DeLay to push the Legislature to redraw congressional districts to favor Republican candidates. Although Texas law forbids the spending of corporate donations in legislative election campaigns, TRMPAC's strategy was to raise and spend almost $600,000 in corporate donations. That strategy was based on the notion that state law is vague and does not mean what it appears to mean.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle contests that notion and has secured the indictments of TRMPAC's director, a fund-raiser and a political operative, along with eight corporations that gave to the PAC.
Lawyers for the accused argue that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution trumps Texas law. But if the Constitution supersedes Texas campaign finance law, it would also negate similar provisions in federal campaign finance law. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld such laws as constitutional.
Some defendants and their lawyers stipulate that federal law allows corporate money to be used in Texas elections. This is false. Texas has the right to regulate its elections in any constitutional manner it pleases. The 10th Amendment of the Bill of Rights, much championed of late by prominent conservatives, reserves such rights to the states.
The defendants also labor under the doubt they cast on their veracity. They previously argued that $190,000 in corporate funds sent from TRMPAC to the Republican National State Elections Committee in Washington was coincidental to $190,000 immediately returned from the Washington PAC to TRMPAC.
So far no one has fallen, having flown to close to the wing-scorching sun. But the TRMPAC story contains in abundance the classical tragic elements of hubris and reckless overreaching.