Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Tom DeLay's TRMPAC Treasurer Gets Taken to Court

The treasurer of TRMPAC, a political action committee closely connected to Tom DeLay, began his trial today.

A key component of Tom DeLay's grand plan to maintain and increase his party's - and therefore his - power in America revolved around his home state of Texas, where Democratic legislatures had for years drawn districts in such a way as to skew the legislature Democratic even though the state has leaned Republican in presidential races since Jimmy Carter.

Most state legislatures draw not only the districts for the state legislature, but also the state's congressional districts. So in order to increase his party's power in Congress, the man known as The Hammer needed first to change the makeup of the Texas Legislature. With Democrats firmly in control of the district-drawing required after the 2000 census, DeLay realized he would have to find a way to get more Republicans elected to the state legislature in 2002 so that they could draw new congressional districts which more accurately represented (or favored, depending on who's talkin') the makeup of the state's electorate.

That way was money.

Former staffers for DeLay started up Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, which raised heaps of money to support DeLay's quest. Texas law allows unlimited donations from individuals to candidates and parties, so TRMPAC had no problem raising the money to unseat enough Democrats to take away their majority. Republicans won control of the state legislature, and soon thereafter pushed through a redistricting plan which led to a gain of six congressional seats in the 2004 elections.

Sometime after the 2002 election, it was revealed that TRMPAC had accepted corporate money, some $600,000 of which it had used for a number of election-related activities like phone banks, political consulting, and political fundraising. The problem is that Texas law prohibits using corporate contributions for anything other than routine administrative expenses.
Today, the civil trial of the TRMPAC treasurer got underway, brought by several of the candidates who were disadvantaged by TRMPAC's corporate money. The parallel criminal case has yet to be heard. Two other defendants, both closely connected to DeLay, are also scheduled for civil trial.

Corporate money has no place in American politics. Corporations aren't people, even though a lot of misguided people have argued that they are. Some of the same misguided people are now arguing that Texas needs to allow corporate money into the political process for ads that can attack or support candidates as long as they don't use magic words like "support" or "oppose".

The grand jury is still hearing evidence in the criminal portion of the case, suggesting that there may be chickens left out there yet come home to roost.

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