October 12, 2004
17 Texans Lobbied in 2002 For Multiple TRM-PAC Donors
HillCo, Locke Liddell, Toomey & Associates and Akin Gump Led the Pack.
Seventeen Texans lobbied in 2002 for more than one client that gave corporate money to the indicted Texans for a Republican Majority (TRM) PAC. These 17 lobbyists reported grossing up to $1.3 million in 2002 from a 10 corporate clients that collectively gave TRM PAC $206,750—or 34 percent of TRM PAC’s corporate cash.
Just four elite lobby firms—HillCo, Toomey & Associates, Locke Liddell and Akin Gump—employed 11 of the 17 lobbyists with multiple TRM-donor clients. Two of the elite firms employ lobbyists who have been subpoenaed by the grand jury that is investigating charges that TRM PAC donors and officials criminally used corporate money to influence Texas’ 2002 state elections. Another high-flying firm lobbied for subpoenaed client Continental Airlines, which pledged $15,000 worth of airfare to TRM.
TRM PAC has close ties to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, whose ascent owes much to an unusually aggressive pursuit of special-interest money. During the 1990s, DeLay organized the “K Street Project,” which pushed more special interests into the GOP camp by threatening trade groups and corporations with reprisals if they hired Democrats as their top lobbyists (see “K Street Project Delivered for DeLay’s Indicted PAC”).
The common Texas lobby threads that entangle many corporate TRM donors could be coincidental but they also could reflect efforts by Texas lobbyists and politicians to gain and retain power by putting a DeLay-style squeeze on special-interest lobby wealth. This spring, for example, HillCo lobbyist Bill Miller urged House Speaker Tom Craddick to make lobbyists “part of the Speaker’s Team” if they supported him with research, organizing and fundraising. Miller told the Dallas Morning News that he never discussed the plan with Craddick. Calling Miller’s account “a lie,” Craddick’s office said the speaker rejected the proposal after Miller presented it to him in person.
No other firm boasts more TRM-donor connections than HillCo. HillCo lobbyists represented two units of TRM donor AT&T in 2002. They also lobbied for Continental Airlines, which the grand jury subpoenaed last year to learn more about that corporation’s pledge to donate $15,000 in airfare to TRM. The parent company of HillCo client Mariner Post Acute Network belongs to the indicted Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, Inc., TRM PAC’s largest corporate donor ($100,000). HillCo also represented affiliates of TRM PAC’s top two non-corporate donors: homebuilder Bob Perry ($165,000) and the PAC of Farmers Insurance Group ($150,000).
Craddick crony Bill Miller founded HillCo in 1998 with former lawmaker Neal “Buddy” Jones. Miller came from PR firm MEM Hubble Communications, which had employed the wife of Governor Rick Perry. After the controversial 2002 election, House Speaker-Apparent Craddick appointed Miller to his transition team along with TRM PAC Treasurer Bill Ceverha and lobbyist Bill Messer of the Texas Lobby Group.
Toomey & Associates
Mike Toomey, who roomed with Governor Rick Perry when both men served in the legislature in the 1980s, founded Toomey & Associates—now called the Texas Lobby Group. Toomey & Associates lobbyists Mike Toomey, Ellen Williams and M. Edward Lopez lobbied in 2002 for TRM donors AT&T and Philip Morris. The grand jury has subpoenaed Williams, an ex-counsel to then-Senator Bill Ratliff. It also has subpoenaed the PAC director of Texans for Lawsuit Reform. This 2002 Toomey client bankrolled much the same slate of GOP House candidates that TRM backed in 2002.
Soon after that election, lobbyists Toomey, Williams and Bill Messer (who lobbied in 2002 for corporate TRM donor Williams Companies) reorganized Toomey & Associates into the Texas Lobby Group—just before Governor Perry named Toomey as his chief of staff. An unnamed lobbyist told the Dallas Morning News at that time that the new firm gave Toomey “a place to park his clients while he is on the governor’s payroll.” Toomey resigned from the Governor’s Office last month, amid rumors that he could surface in a next wave of grand jury indictments.
The Texas Lobby Group also recruited Lara Laneri Keel, who was government affairs director of the Texas Association of Business (TAB), which faces a related grand jury probe of the $1.9 million in corporate money that it spent to influence the 2002 elections. Keel is married to a cousin of Rep. Terry Keel, the treasurer of TRM successor Stars Over Texas PAC (SOT). SOT PAC recently paid $3,000 in “management consulting fees” to another cousin of Rep. Keel. A GOP candidate for Travis County Constable, Thornton Keel became campaign treasurer for Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn in April, after a nasty split between Strayhorn and consultant George Strake.
Locke Liddell & Sapp
Three Locke Liddell lobbyists led by Robert D. Miller represented multiple TRM-donor clients in 2002. A former aide to then-Senator Don Henderson, Miller lobbied for TRM-donor and Anheuser-Busch purveyor Silver Eagle Distributors, as well as two units of TRM-donor Gulf States Toyota. Governor Perry went on an education-policy junket to the Bahamas this year with Silver Eagle CEO John Nau and activist Grover Norquist, who helped DeLay launch the K Street Project.
Other Locke Liddell lobbyists on these accounts were Yuniedth Midence and Ron Kessler, who left to start his own firm last year. Locke Liddell lobbyist Terral Smith, who was Governor George W. Bush’s legislative director, also lobbied in 2002 for TRM donor Burlington Northern.
Then-Locke Liddell attorney Andy Taylor was this firm’s single biggest connection to the 2002 election scandal. A one-time clerk to Texas Supreme Court Chief Justices Tom Phillips and John Hill, Taylor joined Hill at Locke Liddell, which he left in 1999 to become John Cornyn’s assistant attorney general. During the 2000 redistricting fight, Cornyn and Taylor awarded $800,000 in state redistricting legal work to Taylor’s old firm. In 2001 Taylor rejoined Locke Liddell, where he dispensed campaign law advice to both TRM and TAB—advice that Travis County prosecutors are preparing to test in court.
After Taylor’s clients used corporate money to influence the 2002 election, Taylor became the attorney general’s top outside redistricting attorney, first at Locke Liddell and then at Andy Taylor & Associates, the firm that Taylor started in April 2003. The kaleidoscope of roles that Taylor assumed in the 2002 election scandals repeatedly prompted ethical questions. In the thick of the 2003 redistricting fight, for example, Democratic Senator Royce West asked, “Why is the AG allowing Tom DeLay’s attorney to draw the map for the state of Texas?"
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Akin Gump lobbyists Demetrius McDaniel and Helen Gonzalez lobbied in 2002 for TRM donors AT&T and Lexmark International. In February the grand jury subpoenaed McDaniel, a former House aide and ex-special assistant to then-Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower. The subpoena reportedly came in response to allegations that McDaniel was directed to steer his clients’ contributions to support Craddick’s speaker race.
In addition to the eleven lobbyists from the four elite firms discussed above, six other lobbyists represented multiple TRM donors in 2002 (see table in PDF version).