TRMPAC chief will stand trialJudge upholds charges against GOP fund-raisers accused of defying state campaign law
By R.G. RATCLIFFE, July 13, 2005
AUSTIN - A state district judge ruled against the executive director of a Republican political committee Tuesday, saying he should stand trial because the state law banning the use of corporate money in Texas political campaigns is constitutional.
The ruling by state District Judge Bob Perkins marked the second time a judge has ruled that Republicans violated state law by using corporate money to influence the 2002 Texas House elections. A civil court judge issued a similar ruling in a lawsuit brought by losing Democratic candidates. Both judges are Democrats.
After the ruling, Assistant District Attorney Gregg Cox told reporters that any additional indictments will have to be returned by Nov. 5, when the three-year statute of limitations expires. He said the investigation continues.
For more than two years, Travis County prosecutors have been investigating the use of corporate money to influence the 2002 Texas House elections. The Texas Association of Business and a political committee called Texans for a Republican Majority spent a combined total of $2.3 million in corporate money during that election.
The investigation also has received national attention because U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, helped found and guide TRMPAC, as well as raise money for it.
DeLay has accused Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, of running a political investigation.
The three men indicted in the case last year — John Colyandro, Jim Ellis and Warren RoBold — are all political associates of DeLay's.
Colyandro, the executive director of TRMPAC, had challenged the state law used to indict him on accusations of using corporate money in the 2002 Texas House elections as unconstitutionally vague and a violation of free speech. But Perkins upheld 13 indictments accusing Colyandro of accepting illegal corporate donations for TRMPAC during the 2002 elections.
Perkins also upheld a money-laundering indictment against Colyandro on a series of transactions in which more than $190,000 in corporate money from TRMPAC was sent to the Republican National Committee, which in turn made a like amount of donations in legal money from individual donors to Texas House candidates.
Last week, Travis County prosecutors reindicted Colyandro and Jim Ellis, executive director of DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority, on the money-laundering charge.
Cox, the lead prosecutor in the case, did not want to drop the original indictment until the courts had ruled on the validity of the new indictments.
Perkins did not rule on the legality of the new indictments against either man, and he withheld a ruling on the old indictment against Ellis at the request of Ellis' lawyer. Colyandro's lawyer, Joe Turner, said he is likely to appeal Perkins' ruling to the state's 3rd Court of Appeals.
Ellis' lawyer, J.D. Pauerstein, said he expects either the defense or prosecution to appeal however Perkins rules on the money-laundering charge.
Cox said he thinks the appeals on the indictments will be complete before the end of the year.