Civil Trial on DeLay's TRMPAC, Day One

Day Two may be more interesting, but here is the key facts from Day One in the TRMPAC civil case, as summarized by R.G. Ratcliffe of the Houston Chronicle:

During a meeting in San Antonio with TRMPAC advisory board members, including [TRMPAC Treasurer and defendant Bill] Ceverha, [Tom] DeLay, [state Rep. Diane White] Delisi and state Rep. Beverly Wooley, R-Houston, [attorney Cris] Feldman said candidates gave the board detailed descriptions of their campaign plans. One by now-Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, included the dates that direct mail pieces were going to be sent.

Feldman said a document in Delisi's file also contained a list of 23 targeted candidates with notations of what political organizations would be the "lead" in helping them get elected. Some had TRMPAC by their names, others the Texas Association of Business and others Texans for Lawsuit Reform.

Feldman said handwritten notes by Delisi showed the TRMPAC advisory board planned to use corporate donations to help raise candidate-eligible money.

The notes also said some money would be sent directly to Craddick.

Craddick at the time was an official candidate for speaker. State law prohibits outside groups from trying to influence House members on how they should vote in a speaker's race.

Craddick avoided testifying by stipulating that he distributed $152,000 in TRMPAC checks to 14 House candidates. [empahsis added]

There are two major issues at stake here:

1) Did DeLay or anyone else participate in raising corporate money for purposes that are illegal under Texas law?

2) Did then-Speaker candidate Tom Craddick violate the state law prohibiting the use of campaign funds in his campaign for Speaker?

It seems that 2) is pretty clearcut to resolve. As a candidate for Speaker, Craddick distributed checks, from another entity (TRMPAC), to those he was helping elect. Did he also seek commitments from any of these state representative candidates for his leadership race?

On 1) ... it seem a little more fuzzy to determine whether DeLay was directly or indirectly involved. But this really looks bad. How many members of Congress, let alone House Majority Leaders, get this deeply involved in state rep races around their state, especially when the state is as big as Texas? No doubt about it -- this was DeLay's brainchild -- using his clout to raise the money necessary to win enough seats in the Texas Legislature to re-redistrict the lines. That gave him the five additional GOP members in his majority in Congress.