Texans for Public Justice



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TPJ Lobby Watch
Demo-Craddick:  
February 14, 2008
Bipartisan Texas Jobs PAC Defends Speaker’s Job
A

newly revived state PAC recently reported that it received $250,000 from embattled House Speaker Tom Craddick on January 10—one day before it contributed $150,000 of that money to three House Democrats who back Craddick as speaker. “The speaker donated money to the PAC because it’s a bipartisan PAC with a bipartisan board,” a Craddick spokesman told the Houston Chronicle several days after the so-called Texas Jobs PAC made this disclosure.1 “He believes supporting candidates who work across the aisle is good for Texas.”

This blasé description by the speaker’s spokesman does not do justice to these remarkable transactions. The $250,000 that Craddick gave to Texas Jobs PAC is the largest expenditure that his campaign ever made. Similarly, the $50,000 checks that Texas Jobs wrote to the three Demo-Craddick representatives were twice the size of any contribution that these lawmakers previously received. In its short life, the Texas Jobs PAC has redefined just how special “special interests” can be.

Over the past eight years, the Craddick campaign made 16 other whopper expenditures ranging from $25,000 to $200,000. The $250,000 that Craddick gave to Texas Jobs PAC exceeds, for example, the five huge checks totaling $235,000 that Craddick gave to the Craddick-aligned Stars Over Texas PAC. Craddick also gave two large checks totaling $80,000 to Texas Opportunity PAC, which lobbyist Mike Toomey used in 2006 to help six Craddick allies in the House confront tough primary challenges.

Craddick’s largest previous expenditure was a payment of $200,000. That 2005 check probably paid for the radio ads Craddick ran defending his controversial handling of school-finance legislation.2

Craddick’s campaign also wrote four large checks totaling $131,197 to two law firms. As a result of the Texas Jobs PAC transactions, one of the firms—Minton Burton Foster & Collins—again is defending Craddick from allegations that he broke state laws governing speaker races. Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle previously declined to file charges against the speaker after investigating his ties to the now-indicted Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC). Texans For Public Justice filed a complaint with Earle this week accusing Craddick and Texas Jobs PAC of violating election laws.

The $50,000 checks that Texas Jobs PAC wrote also were unprecedented for their recipients: Democratic Reps. Kevin Bailey, Kino Flores and Aaron Pena. These contributions that the PAC made with Craddick’s funds were twice the size of any check previously received by the three Craddick loyalists.

The largest check that Rep. Kino Flores of Palmview previously reported was $25,000 from the doctor-financed Border Health PAC in 2004. Edinburg Rep. Aaron Pena’s largest check had been a $25,000 contribution in 2004 from the trial-lawyer-funded Texans for Insurance Reform.

Before this year, the largest donation that Houston Rep. Kevin Bailey received was the $15,000 that the Texas Trial Lawyers PAC gave him in 2006. Then, on the same wondrous day this January, Bailey suddenly received $50,000 from Texas Jobs PAC and $25,000 from Texans for Lawsuit Reform. Four days later Bailey landed $20,000 from low-income housing developer Dwayne Henson, a recurring Bailey supporter.

The Craddick Campaign’s Biggest Expenditures, 2000 - Date
Amount
Date
 Recipient City  Description
$250,000
1/10/08
 Texas Jobs PAC Austin  Contribution
$200,000
8/10/2005
 C M Marketing Houston  Advertising
$50,000
12/20/07
 Stars Over Texas PAC Austin  Contribution
$50,000
9/26/2006
 Stars Over Texas PAC Austin  Contribution
$50,000
6/21/2006
 Stars Over Texas PAC Austin  Contribution
$50,000
8/12/2004
 Stars Over Texas PAC Austin  Contribution
$50,000
3/3/2006
 Texas Opportunity PAC Austin  Contribution
$48,964
9/06/07
 Yetter & Warden, LLP Austin  Legal & professional
$43,735
3/5/2007
 Bank of America Midland  Tax-1120-POL
$35,000
11/13/07
 Stars Over Texas PAC Austin  Contribution
$31,969
10/26/2004
 Minton Burton Foster & Collins Austin  Legal & professional
$30,000
3/1/2006
 Republican Party of Texas Austin  Contribution
$30,000
3/23/2006
 Texas Opportunity PAC Austin  Contribution
$25,371
11/7/2006
 Basin Aviation Midland  Travel
$25,264
10/03/07
 Yetter & Warden, LLP Austin  Legal & professional
$25,000
4/27/2004
 Minton Burton Foster & Collins Austin  Legal & professional
$25,000
2/7/2006
 Republican Party of Texas Austin  Contribution


Top Donors To Three Demo-Craddick House Members, 2000 - Date

Rep. Kevin Bailey’s Largest Contributions
Amount
 Contributor  Description  City
Date
$50,000
 TX Jobs PAC  Speaker’s Job PAC?  Austin
1/11/08
$25,000
 Texans for Lawsuit Reform  Civil justice limits  Houston
1/11/08
$20,000
 Dwayne Henson  D. Henson Investments  Houston
1/15/08
$15,000
 TX Trial Lawyers Assoc.  Trial lawyer PAC  Austin
6/19/06
$10,000
 HillCo PAC  B. Perry-funded lobby PAC  Austin
9/4/07
$10,000
 Bob Perry  Perry Homes  Houston
9/7/06


Rep. Kino Flores’ Largest Contributions
Amount
 Contributor  Description  City
Date
$50,000
 TX Jobs PAC  Speaker’s Job PAC?  Austin
1/11/08
$25,000
 Border Health PAC  Medical interests  McAllen
12/9/04
$10,000
 Border Health PAC  Medical interests  McAllen
10/25/05
$10,000
 Doctors Hospital  Medical interest  Edinburg
12/29/03
$10,000
 HillCo PAC  B. Perry-funded lobby PAC  Austin
9/4/07
$10,000
 Bob Perry  Perry Homes  Houston
11/29/07
$10,000
 Bob Perry  Perry Homes  Houston
9/15/06


Rep. Aaron Pena’s Largest Contributions
Amount
 Contributor  Description  City
Date
$50,000
 TX Jobs PAC  Speaker’s Job PAC?  Austin
1/11/08
$25,000
 Texans for Insurance Reform  Trial-lawyer PAC  Austin
2/20/04
$10,000
 Border Health PAC  Medical interests  McAllen
10/27/05
$10,000
 Bob Perry  Perry Homes  Houston
11/08/07



Contributors To Texas Jobs PAC
Donors Identified
By TX Jobs PAC
 
 Description
 
 City
TX Jobs
PAC
Amount
Amount To Craddick/
Stars Over
TX
TX Opport.
PAC
Amount
TRMPAC
Amount
Craddick Campaign  House Speaker  Midland
$250,000
$235,000
$90,000
$0
James Mansour  Telecom. executive  Austin
$25,000
$0
$0
$0
Bob Perry  Perry Homes  Houston
$25,000
$216,000
$50,000
$170,000
Michael Stevens  Developer  Houston
$25,000
$75,000
$25,000
$0
Charles McMahen  Compass Bank  Schulenburg
$2,000
$11,000
$0
$0
Vance Miller  Realty mogul  Dallas
$2,000
$14,500
$0
$10,000
TX Lobby Group  Mike Toomey’s firm  Austin
$2,000
$500
$7,200
$0
Antonio Falcon  Physician  Rio Grande
$1,000
$0
$0
$0
TOTAL:
$332,000
$552,000
$172,200
$180,000
Note: The PAC reported receiving $500 more from unidentified donors of small amounts.

The Craddick spokesman’s explanation that Craddick gave $250,000 to Texas Jobs “because it’s a bipartisan PAC with a bipartisan board” also merits parsing. The degree of partisanship exhibited by the PAC has little to do with whether or not Craddick violated the so-called speaker’s law. A speaker candidate seeking House votes cannot afford to discriminate. But the issue does cut to questions about the PAC’s independence and about Craddick’s intent in making the contribution.
 
When Texas Jobs wrote the three $50,000 checks on January 11, the only funds that the PAC had to spend had come from the Republican speaker the day before. The PAC immediately moved more than half of this money to three of Craddick’s Democratic loyalists in the House. At that point, Texas Jobs PAC was “bipartisan” in that all of its funding came from a Republican official while all of its expenditures benefited Craddick Democrats.

Clearly other PACs both receive and distribute funds on a bipartisan basis. What prompted Craddick to suddenly pour the largest campaign check of his career into an empty vessel, which—the next day—forwarded most of Craddick’s money to three Democrats whom Craddick desperately wants to keep in the House? At least one other Craddick Democrat turned down Texas Jobs PAC’s overtures; Austin Rep. Dawnna Dukes did not want to be branded with taking $50,000 of Craddick money.3

In the two weeks after Texas Jobs PAC moved $150,000 of Craddick’s money, the PAC received $82,000 more from seven donors who kicked in between $1,000 and $25,000 apiece. Most of these donors are known Craddick allies. Collectively they have provided $579,200 in support to the speaker through: the Craddick campaign, Stars Over Texas, the Texas Opportunity PAC and the now-indicted Texans for a Republican Majority PAC.

Their ranks include the lobby firm of Mike Toomey, who helped coordinate the efforts of TRMPAC, the Texas Association of Business and Texans for Lawsuit Reform to establish a GOP House majority in 2002. TRMPAC fundraisers also solicited now-retired Compass Bank executive Charles McMahen in 2002. Four days later that bank’s PAC gave $22,000 to House candidates on TRMPAC’s slate.

 


The Texas-Jobs Seven
Gave Heavily in 2006

Contributor
Total State
Donations
(’06 Cycle)
Bob Perry
$7,167,064
Michael Stevens
$503,600
Vance Miller
$115,300
James Mansour
$91,750
Charles McMahen
$74,100
TX Lobby Group
$63,468
Antonio Falcon
$23,875
TOTAL:
$8,039,157

Two days after he resigned as chair of Grande Communications this January, James Mansour contributed $25,000 to Texas Jobs PAC. Mansour long has been James Leininger’s right-hand man in the school-voucher war. Mansour was the No. 2 donor to Leininger’s Texans for School Choice PAC, which poured $155,880 into eight GOP House races in 2006. In fact, 81 percent of this voucher money went to Martha Wong and George Antuna—whose losses to Democrats undermined Craddick’s tenuous base.



Republicans Got
74% of the Money
That the Texas-Jobs
Seven Spent on
Texas’ 2006 Elections

Party
Amount
Share
Republican Candidates/PACs
$5,968,232
74%
Democratic Candidates/PACs
$485,200
6%
Ostensibly non-partisan PACs
$1,585,725
20%
TOTAL:
$8,039,156
100%


 

Together these seven Texas Jobs PAC donors invested more than $8 million in Texas’ 2006 election cycle, with 74 percent of this money going to Republicans, 20 percent going to ostensibly bipartisan PACs and 6 percent going to Democrats. 

To be sure, these aggregate numbers are skewed by Houston mega-donor Bob Perry. Yet all of the Texas Jobs PAC donors gave at least twice as much to Republicans as they did to Democrats. Indeed, Charles McMahen and James Mansour collectively spent $165,850 without directly giving a Democrat a dime. To date, Texas Jobs PAC has raised overwhelmingly Republican funds, distributing them to that rare breed known as Craddick Democrats.

The smallest donor identified by Texas Jobs PAC is Rio Grande City doctor Antonio Falcon, whom the PAC lists as one of its five financial decision makers. (Quorum Report recently delved into the background of another one of these decision makers: conservative operative James Cardle.)4

Falcon spent $23,875 on Texas’ 2006 elections. With 23 percent of this money going to Democrats, Falcon has the most bipartisan profile of the Texas Jobs donors. Falcon’s bipartisanship has an interesting geographical divide. His GOP contributions mostly benefited statewide officeholders, whereas his Democratic contributions overwhelmingly went to the Democratic incumbents who control South Texas. The exception to this pattern is the money that Falcon has given to the local Hidalgo County Republican Party.

The degree to which the Texas Jobs PAC is bipartisan or not has little to do with whether or not Speaker Craddick violated Texas’ speaker law. Yet the strong Republican bent of its donors suggests that it was no accident that this PAC has acted like an arm of the Craddick campaign. As Quorum wrote, “The claim that Tom Craddick wrote his biggest contribution check ($250,000) out of his own campaign fund to be spent on races to be determined later, by an anonymous board, defies belief.” To date, the only job that Texas Jobs PAC has shown any interest in is that of the Speaker of the House.

Link to Political Profiles of Texas Jobs PAC Donors


Endnotes:

1 “Hefty gift to Bailey has Craddick ties,” Houston Chronicle, February 7, 2008.
2 “Craddick goes statewide,” Texas Weekly, August, 15, 2005.
3 “Dukes Turns Down Craddick Donation,” Austin American-Statesman, February 7, 2008.
4“More questions about Craddick Funded Texas Jobs PAC,” Quorum Report, February 12, 2008.

 

Texans for Public Justice. February 14, 2008.