Clear as a bellHouston Chronicle Editorial
February 9, 2005
Texas law has long banned corporate contributions to political candidates. It reasonably allows a corporation to provide office space, utilities and other nonpolitical support to a political action committee. That allows a corporation to share space with the political group it organized.
However, the basic thrust of the law is to keep corporate money in the hands of shareholders and prevent it from being placed at the disposal of politicians or spent to influence the outcome of elections.
The failure to acknowledge this sensible and settled interpretation of the law led to indictments of several corporations and three associates of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land. Despite ongoing lawsuits and a Travis County grand jury's criminal investigation, some political operatives still maintain PACs can solicit cash from any corporation and spend it on phone banks and polling and other political tools used to win elections. Supporters of Texans for a Republican Majority argue with a straight face that the group's PAC can legally send restricted corporate money to another group and receive back unrestricted individual donations in similar amounts.
The law is less confusing than it is flouted. Perhaps for this reason the Legislature should provide the ultimate clarity by banning any corporate contributions to political action committees. At the least, clarifying legislation should prescribe stiff penalties for corporate donations to PACS other than those made to cover office expenses of the PAC affiliated with that corporation.