Channel One’s parent donated to TRMPAC before education board’s voteFeb. 10, 2006
By CLAY ROBISON and R.G. RATCLIFFE
Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau Staff
AUSTIN - New subpoenas issued by Travis County prosecutors on Thursday cast light on a campaign contribution made by Primedia Inc. in 2002 just two days before the State Board of Education cast a vote that could have affected the company's profits in Texas.
Documents requested by the subpoenas show the New York publishing company gave $2,500 to Texans for a Republican Majority, the political action committee founded by U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, on Nov. 13, 2002. The money was solicited for TRMPAC by the husband of a board member, Dallas businessman Vance Miller, according to a document obtained by the Houston Chronicle.
While the subpoenas call attention to the Primedia donation to TRMPAC at the time of the board vote, they do not appear to signal an expansion of District Attorney Ronnie Earle's investigation of DeLay and TRMPAC to include the State Board of Education.
Two days after the contribution, the education panel was scheduled to vote on a nonbinding resolution by board member Judy Strickland urging school districts to cancel their contracts with Primedia's Channel One education service because it subjects children in the classroom to commercials.
Channel One co-founder Jim Ritts flew in from New York to appear before the board in opposition to the resolution.
Miller's wife, Geraldine, offered an alternative resolution that simply emphasized that school districts should give close scrutiny to relationships with commercial entities and the marketing of products to children in schools.
The Miller resolution thwarted a possible statewide fight for Primedia to retain its Texas contracts. The resolution passed the board 12-3.
Miller is now chairman of the state education board. She said Primedia's donation to TRMPAC through her husband was not connected to the Channel One vote. "I have nothing to do with this. It (the TRMPAC contribution) had no relationship with Channel One, whatsoever," she said.
Whit Clay, a spokesman for Channel One, said the company had not yet been served with the subpoena but will comply.
The subpoenas specifically request documents relating to Primedia in regard to "pending or proposed federal legislation intended to affect the interests" of Primedia in 2002 or 2003.
The subpoenas seem to target relationships that DeLay, R-Sugar Land, had with convicted influence peddler Jack Abramoff and his Washington lobby clients' donations to TRMPAC.
Abramoff was the registered lobbyist for Primedia at the time of the 2002 donations.
The subpoenas do not mention him, but former Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed also was lobbying for Channel One at the time.
Several Texas public interest groups have complained to Travis County Attorney David Escamilla that Reed violated state law by failing to register as a lobbyist in 2002. Among the claims is that he called board of education members urging them to vote against Strickland's resolution.
"Clearly, Ralph Reed was contacting members of the State Board of Education on behalf of Channel One and its owner, Primedia," said Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice.
DeLay is accused of participating in a 2002 scheme to launder illegal corporate money through the Republican National Committee in exchange for legal donations to seven candidates for the Texas House.
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