State defends fund-raiser's hiring
By R.G. RATCLIFFE, Houston Chronicle
Thursday, April 7, 2005
AUSTIN - A state agency overseen by Speaker Tom Craddick gave a $180,000-a-year congressional lobbying contract to a firm that had helped raise money to finance the Republican takeover of the Texas House that led to Craddick's election as speaker.
The Texas Office of State-Federal Relations hired lobbyist Drew Maloney and his firm, the Federalist Group, less than two months after Craddick became speaker in 2003. In 2002, Maloney helped raise money for Texans for a Republican Majority's effort to win a GOP House majority for the first time since Reconstruction.
Maloney is a former chief of staff to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, who founded Texans for a Republican Majority. Winning a state House majority and electing Craddick as speaker were key to DeLay's efforts to push congressional redistricting through the Legislature.
Records from a recent civil lawsuit reviewed by the Houston Chronicle show Maloney apparently raised $25,000 each from Reliant Energy and Westar Energy for the group's political action committee, TRMPAC. He also attended an October 2002 Washington, D.C., breakfast with Craddick that was set up by TRMPAC fund-raisers to introduce influential lobbyists to "the likely next speaker of the Texas House."
As speaker, Craddick serves on the oversight board for the state's Washington lobby office along with Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. When the Federalist Group was hired, it was the first time in a decade that a professional firm had been employed to help the state deal with Congress.
Craddick spokeswoman Alexis DeLee said the speaker does not know Maloney and had nothing to do with his hiring.
Maloney defended his contact with the state, saying he was selected from among a group of bidders. Maloney said he met Craddick briefly at a Washington breakfast in 2002.
Perry spokesman Robert Black said Maloney's firm was hired to lobby the U.S. House because a Republican firm could better deal with the House's Republican majority.
"You certainly hire a lobby group based on their connections and relationships in Congress to help get passed the measures important to Texas," Black said.
Sales tax deduction
Black said the Federalist Group helped Texas gain additional funding for specific projects as well as helping push through a measure to allow Texans to deduct sales taxes from their federal income tax payments. The sales tax deduction legislation was dead last year until DeLay got behind it.
During House debate on the state budget Wednesday, Democrats tried to strip funding for Maloney's lobby contract and give it to the Texas Veterans Commission.
"Texas veterans need this money more than Mr. Maloney," Democratic Chairman Jim Dunnam of Waco said before his motion was killed 82-63.
Maloney's documents were disclosed in a civil case in which several losing Democratic House candidates are suing TRMPAC treasurer Bill Ceverah for alleged illegal corporate spending in the 2002 House elections. A judge is expected to rule in that case soon.
Three of DeLay's associates also have been indicted by a Travis County grand jury on charges of illegally directing corporate money into the 2002 House races. All three claim the money was spent legally.
Shortly after quitting as DeLay's chief of staff in March 2002, Maloney set up a golf outing at the Homestead resort in Virginia with energy executives. The event focused on raising money for DeLay's leadership committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, ARMPAC, but the executives also were invited to donate to TRMPAC.
Maloney said there is nothing unethical about lobbyists helping politicians raise money or attending political events with them.
"It's nothing new for a lobbyist to attend a fund-raiser or an event with a member of Congress," Maloney said.