Texas Ethics Commission seeks to disclose donors – Houston Chronicle u s money laundering

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Corporations can spend

One of the biggest election controversies of the past decade surrounded the use of corporate money by the TAB and a political committee founded by then- U.S. House majority leader tom delay to help turn the state house from democratic control to republican during the 2002 elections.

State law for more than 100 years had banned corporate money from being used to influence the outcome of texas elections.

That effectively was set aside by the january supreme court ruling in citizens united v. Federal election commission.

The court held that corporations and labor unions can spend money to help elect and defeat candidates as long as it is done independently of the candidates’ campaigns.

The texas association of business faced lawsuits and indictments because it used $1.7 million in corporate money to pay for “issue” ads that helped republicans win 18 of 22 targeted state house races.U s money laundering

A state district judge in austin later threw out the indictmentsbecause the ads did not specifically advocate the election or defeat of the candidates. No need for disclosure

Hammond said the citizens united decision “vindicated” his organization’s belief in freedom of speech.

He said no decision has been made about whether the TAB will advertise in this year’s elections. If it does, he said the individual corporate donors will not have to be disclosed because the money will be raised for general TAB operations and not specifically for advertising. Threats predicted

The names of the corporations that gave money to the business association in the 2002 elections did not come out for four years, and surfaced then only because of a lawsuit. The money came heavily from insurance companies that wanted the legislature to pass limits on personal injury lawsuits.U s money laundering

McDonald said the real problem with corporate donations will be that major corporations in sectors such as insurance or smokestack industries will be able to tell a legislator that if he fights them on bills, he may find himself the subject of negative corporate ads in the next election.

“corporations will use the power to threaten lawmakers to do what they want,” mcdonald said. “now, they (legislators) may be more frightened to work against big economic interests.” texas law intact

Cris feldman, a houston election lawyer involved in candidate lawsuits against delay’s texans for a republican majority, said the citizens united case should have no impact on criminal indictments pending against delay and two associates.

“citizens united did not overturn texas’ law prohibiting direct corporate contributions to candidates,” feldman said.

DeLay and two associates, john colyandro and jim ellis, have appealed the indictments brought against them on the grounds that the state’s money-laundering statute does not apply to their cases.U s money laundering

Rg.Ratcliffe@chron.Com