October 28, 2004

Supreme Court Heeds Corporate Call:
Republican Brethren Where ART Thou?

Donors Who Gave Associated Republicans $2 Million
Also Gave $560,839 To High Court Candidates

Just six days after a Democratic state judge issued a temporary restraining order barring Associated Republicans of Texas (ART) PAC from spending more corporate funds until after the November election, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court unanimously vacated that order this week. The court's ruling officially reopened the ostensibly illegal corporate electioneering season.

The plaintiffs1 in the case are two Democratic candidates for the Texas House who cite Texas' prohibition on corporate political contributions to demand that ART PAC be barred from raising or spending more corporate funds. The case (IN Re Norman F. Newton) aims a double-barrel shotgun at the high court's perilous claim to impartiality. After all, Texas' seven sitting justices are all Republican politicians--most of whom have taken campaign money from the same donors who bankroll ART.

Over the past decade, ART PAC has given nine successful Texas Supreme Court candidates $38,352. Three current justices who backed ART in the recent ruling walked away with $13,186 of this money. The author of this opinion, Justice Nathan Hecht, is the current court's top recipient of ART cash. (Current and former justices took $5,900 more from ART's attorneys at DeLeon Boggins & Icenogle.)

These direct PAC contributions greatly understate ART's influence over the Texas Supreme Court, however, given that much of ART's money comes from wealthy donors who also bankroll the justices directly. ART PAC has raised almost $2 million since 2000 from just 26 major donors who gave that PAC between $20,000 and $338,500 apiece.


ART PAC Contributions To Justices (1993-2004)

Justice Amount
Greg Abbott $6,500
James Baker $1,000
John Cornyn $3,500
Craig Enoch $7,000
Alberto Gonzales $2,166
Deborah Hankinson $5,000
*Nathan Hecht $6,056
*Harriet O'Neill $5,000
*Priscilla Owen $2,130
TOTAL:  $38,352
* Current justice


Top Donors To Associated Republicans of Texas PAC

(2000- Present)
Amount To
High Court
Justices &
Current Court
$338,500 $24,000 William McMinn Sterling Group (chemicals)
$307,150 $1,750 Mike Boylan Houston Property Mgmt. Co.
$250,000 $8,563 Governor Bush Committee Commander in Chief
$140,000 $6,350 David & Doug Hartman Hartman & Assoc. (investments)
$115,000 $98,000 James Leininger Kinetic Concepts (hospital beds)
San Antonio
$110,000 $8,500 John McGovern McGovern Allergy Clinic
$100,000 $0 Altria Corp. Services Formerly Philip Morris tobacco
New York
$75,000 $67,000 Gordon Cain Sterling Group (chemicals)
$68,000 $23,482 Boone Pickens BP Capital, Inc. (energy speculator)
$57,500 $14,750 Frank Liddell, Jr. Locke Liddell & Sapp attorney
$37,800 $12,500 American Insurance Assoc. Insurance
$35,450 $100 Kent Grusendorf State representative
$27,000 $1,700 Verne Philips Attorney
$25,000 $0 Gregory Barnes Self-Employed lobbyist
$25,000 $0 Jack Hamilton Davis Hamilton Jackson (investing)
$25,000 $0 Jon Huntsman Huntsman LLC (chemicals)
Salt Lake
$25,000 $44,150 Robert McNair Cogen Technologies Energy Group
$25,000 $15,000 Pfizer Pharmaceutical giant
New York
$25,000 $0 Bill Ratliff Ex-Senator, lobby consultant
Mt Pleasant
$25,000 $89,000 Reliant Energy Electricity
$25,000 $93,844 TX Civil Justice League Protecting businesses from lawsuits
$24,200 $0 William H. Giesenschlag Rancher
$24,000 $1,650 Tom B. Hudson Graves Daugherty Hearon attorney
$20,775 $500 Harry Lucas Lucas Petroleum Group
$20,000 $50,000 Albert Huddleston Hyperion Resources (energy)
$20,000 $0 Prudential Financial Insurance
$1,970,375 $560,839  (TOTALS)  
*1993 To Present


In his ART opinion, Justice Nathan Hecht seems to anticipate that his ruling could be construed as a partisan hatchet job. In explaining why the Supreme Court allowed ART to bypass the usual stop at an intermediate appeals court, Hecht invokes a 1990 ruling in which the high court similarly leapt directly into the electoral fray. In that case (Sears v. Bayoud), the court granted a Democratic Supreme Court candidate's request that his Republican opponent be struck from the ballot because he lacked constitutionally prescribed qualifications for the office. Hecht's subtext seems to be that the court rules on the basis of law--not partisanship.

Unfortunately, the case that Hecht cited supports the opposite conclusion. When the Texas Supreme Court struck down a Republican's candidacy for the high court in 1990, a Democratic majority controlled that court. In fact, the three Republican members of that court (Hecht, Tom Phillips and Eugene Cook) all joined a lone Democrat's scathing dissent that thrashes the majority for reaching "back into the historical record for something--anything--to support the conclusion it wants to reach." The Republican-dominated dissenters would have left the disputed Republican on the ballot.

The chief difference between the court then and now is that the current justices are all from one party and not a single justice strayed from the party line. In a way, Justice Hecht is correct to suggest that the court consistently followed a stare decisis doctrine, albeit one based on human nature rather than the law. The timeless precedent that the court invoked in 1990 and again this week is the one whereby the justices take care of their own.


Donations To High Court Justices & Current Court Candidates
From Top ART PAC Patrons

Justice/Candidate Amount
Greg Abbott $72,100
James Baker $15,863
*Scott Brister $6,500
John Cornyn $20,850
Craig Enoch $35,000
Alberto Gonzales $18,353
†Raul Gonzalez $49,845
‡Paul Green $12,872
Deborah Hankinson $36,600
*Nathan Hecht $63,403
*Wallace Jefferson $37,828
*Harriet O'Neill $32,100
*Priscilla Owen $48,135
Tom Phillips $23,656
Xavier Rodriguez $16,303
Mike Schneider $21,206
 †Rose Spector $2,500
‡†David Van Os $0
*Jesse Wainwright $47,725
TOTAL:  $560,839
*Current justice
‡Current candidate

1 Note: The plaintiffs' attorney, Cristen Feldman, is the former staff attorney for Texans for Public Justice (TPJ). Feldman continues to represent TPJ in some legal matters, but TPJ has no role in the Associated Republicans of Texas case.