Friday, March 4, 2005

The seven individuals whom lobbyist Andy Taylor said are bankrolling his efforts to “clarify” Texas’ prohibition against corporate contributions include some of the state’s largest campaign contributors. These seven people contributed a total of $5,487,318 in the 2004 election cycle to candidates for state office and Texas political committees.

Those Paying Lobbyist Andy Taylor to 'Clarify' Election Laws Include Some of Texas'--and TRMPAC's--Biggest Donors

For Immediate Release:
For More Information Contact:
March 4, 2005
Craig McDonald, 512-472-9770

Austin: The seven individuals whom lobbyist Andy Taylor said are bankrolling his efforts to “clarify” Texas’ prohibition against corporate contributions include some of the state’s largest campaign contributors.1

These seven people contributed a total of $5,487,318 in the 2004 election cycle to candidates for state office and Texas political committees. One of the seven, Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, is the state’s No. 1 individual contributor. Perry poured $4,640,000 of his personal wealth into Texas’ 2004 election cycle.

Three of Taylor’s patrons also were big donors to Texans for a Republican Majority PAC in the disputed 2002 election cycle, giving TRMPAC a total of $210,000. Five of the seven contributed a total of $391,000 in the 2004 cycle to Texans for Lawsuit Reform’s PAC. TLR PAC director Matt Welch has been subpoenaed in the ongoing criminal probe of TRMPAC.

The 'Corporate-Clarification' Seven

'04 Cycle
Bob PerryPerry Homes$4,640,000$165,000$340,000

Louis Beecherl Jr.Beecherl Interests$400,335$35,000$20,000PP
Michael StevensStevens Interests

Henry S. Miller
(real estate)
Charles McMahen*Compass

Walter MischerAllied Bancshares;
Dover Homes

Fred ZeidmanGreenberg Traurig


TOTAL: $5,487,318$210,000$391,000

R = “Ranger” who raised at least $200,000 for Bush’s 2004 campaign.
P = Pioneer who raised at least $100,000 for Bush’s 2000 and/or 2004 campaigns.
P- = Volunteer who apparently failed to raise the pledged $100,000 for Bush’s 2000 campaign.
* McMahen’s gave $6,692 to Compass PAC, which gave much of its money outside Texas.
† Texans for Lawsuit Reform’s PAC director was subpoenaed in the criminal probe of TRM PAC.

Bob Perry is far and away the largest individual donor in Texas, giving $4.6 million to state candidates and PACs in the 2004 election cycle alone. Perry gained notoriety in 2004 as a major underwriter of Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, which attacked John Kerry’s military record in Vietnam. Perry was the single largest contributor to the Texas Association of Business (TAB) PAC in the 2002, , giving $105,000. Like TRMPAC, TAB is under criminal investigation for misuse of corporate funds in the 2002 Texas elections. Its defense attorney is Andy Taylor. Perry contributed a total of $595,500 directly to the campaigns of 23 GOP legislative candidates in the 2002 cycle, including the 21-candidate slate supported by TRMPAC. Perry contributed $95,000 to Tom DeLay’s Republican Majority Issues PAC in 2001. A 2004 Texas Observer story raises questions about if Bob Perry broke Texas’ judicial campaign contribution limits by moving some judicial donations through his lobby firm’s PAC.

Louis Beecherl, Jr. made a fortune off the 1985 sale of Texas Oil and Gas Corp for $3.8 billion. Beecherl is a major power behind Texas Speaker Tom Craddick’s throne. He is a longtime patron of political operative Bill Ceverha, who helped make Craddick Speaker as TRMPAC treasurer. Craddick then named Ceverha to his 2002 Speaker transition team. Ceverha also helped Beecherl promote a record $246 million Dallas bond initiative to develop the banks of the Trinity River. Critics called the plan a boondoggle to would enrich nearby landowners--including Beecherl. Beecherl has sat on the board of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which had its PAC director subpoenaed as part of the criminal TRMPAC probe.

Michael Stevens, who oversees an apartment-complex empire, served as former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier’s housing advisor. Stevens headed Texans for True Mobility (TTM), which spent an estimated $1.5 million in a failed effort to derail Houston’s 2003 light-rail initiative. The Houston Chronicle complained that TTM failed to disclose its donors. Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, whose own campaign took money from TTM members, concluded in 2004 that this secrecy was legal because the group’s attack ads did not specifically tell the public to vote against rail funding. (Taylor uses this rationale to defend the Texas Association of Business, which still hides the sources of $2.1 million in corporate money that it spent to influence Texas’ 2002 elections). Tom DeLay’s campaign, as well as his Americans for a Republican Majority (ARM) PAC, later reported contributing $15,000 apiece to TTM. ARMPAC Director Jim Ellis in under criminal indictment for allegedly helping TRMPAC break Texas elections laws. Stevens sits on the board of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s campaign committee. Abbott’s office paid Taylor $772,399 to help the state vet Tom DeLay’s redistricting agenda. Stevens and Vance Miller also sit on the board of the Texas Public Policy Foundation think tank, which is influential with top state Republican leaders.

Charles McMahen was vice chair of Compass Bancshares in September 2002, when Rep. Beverly Woolley and TRMPAC fundraiser Susan Lilly solicited TRMPAC money from him. A memo from this trip obtained by the Houston Chronicle and Texas Observer notes the legislative objectives of would-be donors and their financial commitments. A note next to McMahen’s name, for example, says, “Want to clean up home equity lending.” Jotted nearby is the phrase “22K direct,” a figure that mirrors the $1,000 checks that the Compass PAC wrote to 22 Texas House candidates four days later (the following year the legislature acted to expand home-equity lending in Texas).

Vance Miller, whose father founded a Dallas real estate empire, is one of the donors who jotted Craddick’s name on checks that they wrote to TRMPAC. In explaining this faux pas to the media, Miller said that, before he wrote his $10,000 check, TRMPAC Treasuer Bill Ceverha “led me to believe Tom Craddick was involved to elect more Republicans to the House.” Spouse Geraldine “Tincy” Miller chairs the Texas State Board of Education. Fellow social conservative Linda Bauer’s 2002 election to that board got a $13,000 boost from a Miller-affiliated PAC. The Austin-American Statesman reported that the PAC’s only donors were the Millers and Russell Stein--an investment advisor involved in one of the State Board of Education’s pay-to-play scandals.

Walter Mischer diversified the fortune he made in Houston land deals when he and several partners founded Allied Bancshares in 1971. Mischer was one of Texas’ most powerful kingmakers in the late twentieth century, bankrolling pols as diverse as Barbara Jordan and Ronald Reagan. His clout has moderated in recent years, however. As the owner of the West Texas resort town of Lajitas in the 1990s, for example, Mischer wisely left municipal administration to popular Lajitas Mayor Clay Henry—a beer-swilling goat.

Fred Zeidman, a “Ranger” who raised at least $200,000 for President Bush’s reelection, made his fortune in petrochemicals and investment banking. Zeidman has sat on the board of seismic oil-detection company Seitel since 1997. The company restated its earnings after Enron’s bust, erasing 22 percent of the revenue it had claimed in the previous two years. In a career change last year, Greenberg Traurig named Zeidman head of its embattled lobby practice. The firm had just fired DeLay protégé Jack Abramoff, who is under multiple investigations for denigrating Native American clients as he relieved them of tens of millions of dollars. The kicker for Greenberg came when it learned that Abramoff played his employer for a chump, too, arranging $10 million in tribal kickbacks that bypassed the firm’s coffers. The National Journal reported last month that Abramoff solicited a $4,285 reimbursement from his previous lobby firm, Preston Ellis, to cover hotel bills that Tom DeLay and his wife racked up in London in 2002. Such a payment by Abramoff would violate House rules that bar lobbyists from paying the travel costs of a member of Congress. Preston Ellis contributed $25,000 that same year to TRMPAC. Zeidman himself accompanied DeLay on an Israeli in 2003.

1. Based on preliminary analysis of all campaign contributions filed electronically with the Texas Ethics Commission for the period January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2004