Judge finds against DeLay's TRMPAC

From Texans for Public Justice:

Court Ruling Finds TRMPAC Violated Texas Campaign Laws

(Austin, TX) In the first civil lawsuit alleging misuse of corporate money in the Texas 2002 state elections to go to trial, Travis County District Judge Joseph Hart today ruled that Tom DeLay's Texas political committee, Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC) violated Texas campaign law when it failed to disclose more than a half-million dollars in corporate contributions.

Judge Hart awarded $196,660 to the five plaintiffs, all Democratic candidates who lost in 2002.

In reaction to the ruling, Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice said,

"Today's ruling is bad news for Tom DeLay and his TRMPAC cronies. This ruling draws blood from the financial heart of DeLay's corrupt political empire. This is likely to be but the first of many guilty verdicts against TRMPAC and its leaders.

"Today's judgment confirms that TRMPAC blatantly violated Texas election law. Its the first step in holding TRMPAC's leaders accountable for the corruption they levied on Texas' politics.

"This ruling will hasten the end of DeLays white-collar crimes against democracy.

"It sends a strong message to all the Tom DeLays who act as if they are above the law: Don't mess with Texas elections."

Texans for Public Justice filed the original criminal complaint against TRMPAC's 2002 fundraising activities with Ronnie Earle, the Travis County District Attorney. Multiple criminal indictments are pending against three of Tom DeLays aides who carried out TRMPAC's activities. A grand jury investigation into TRMPAC is ongoing.

Background on TRMPAC Civil Suit:

The plaintiffs in the civil suit (Paul Clayton, et al v. Bill Ceverha & Texans for a Republican Majority) were five Democratic candidates for the Texas House (one incumbent, 4 challengers) who were defeated by TRMPAC-supported Republicans in 2002 general elections.

The defendants were TRMPAC and its Treasurer, William Ceverha, of Dallas. Both John Colyandro and Jim Ellis had been named as defendants in the suit, but the claims against them were temporarily abated due to their ongoing criminal prosecutions. Colyandro faces multiple felony criminal indictments for his role in raising corporate money for TRMPAC and he and Ellis are under felony indictment for laundering corporate money through RNSEC.

Plaintiffs charged TRMPAC and its Treasurer with raising and spending approximately $600,000 in corporate contributions for political activities which is strictly prohibited under Texas law. (Including $190,000 in corporate funds that TRMPAC sent to the RNSEC that was returned in direct campaign contributions to TRMPAC endorsed Republican House candidates.) The prohibited activities included candidate recruitment, fundraising activities, polling, message development and voter identification efforts. Plaintiffs also charged that the defendants failed to report the contributions and expenditures in their Texas campaign disclosure reports. Plaintiffs sought approximately $1.2 million in damages (twice the amount of the illegal contributions.)

Tom DeLay was intimately involved in the entire TRMPAC operation. He served as head of TRMPAC's advisory board, admits that TRMPAC was created on his initiative, and that he raised money for TRMPAC. Documents show that DeLay attended multiple fundraising events where corporate dollars were solicited for TRMPAC.