The T.A.B. Timeline

Reviewing the major events in the ongoing controversy of T.A.B. expenditures during last fall's campaigns

The Texas Association of Business collected $1.9 million from corporate donors to pay for a direct-mail campaign to influence the November elections. The mailers targeted 24 legislative races, primarily attacking Democratic candidates, but the T.A.B. says that because they did not explicitly encourage voters to cast their ballot one way or another, it does not have to publicly disclose who paid for the campaign ads. That's one central issue in the district attorney's investigation and the related lawsuits; another is whether there was any potentially illegal "coordination" with any candidate's campaign.

October 2002: Political attack ads begin arriving in mailboxes across Texas, including the Austin area, where Democratic contenders -- Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, Rep. Ann Kitchen, James Sylvester, and Patrick Rose -- are in tight races against T.A.B.-endorsed candidates. They list the T.A.B. logo only, and the group will later argue that these are "voter education" mailings and therefore unregulated free speech.

November 2002: Election Day. T.A.B.-supported candidates win 18 of 22 targeted House races and one Senate race. Locally, Barrientos and Rose survive; Kitchen and Sylvester lose.

T.A.B. sued by Kitchen, former Rep. Debra Danburg of Houston, and candidate Danny Duncan of Commerce. Sylvester files a separate lawsuit.

December 2002: Three consumer groups -- Public Citizen, Common Cause Texas, and Texas Consumer Association -- file complaints against T.A.B. with the district attorney.

T.A.B. sues all the remaining defeated candidates who have not yet filed lawsuits.

January 2003: Earle convenes grand-jury investigation to determine if T.A.B. violated campaign-finance laws. Subpoenas issued for T.A.B. President Bill Hammond, T.A.B. Information Systems Director Don Shelton, and Bob Thomas, owner of Thomas Graphics, which printed the mailers.

February 2003: T.A.B. and Hammond sue Earle in federal court claiming First Amendment protections that would prevent Hammond from having to testify and turn over information on corporate donors. U.S. district judge punts lawsuit to state court. Hearing set for March 25.

March 2003: Grand-jury investigation turns to possible "coordination" of ad campaign between T.A.B., Texans for a Republican Majority, and Law Enforcement Alliance of America, to determine whether one or more of the groups coordinated efforts with individual campaigns. The law forbids coordination on "issue" ads paid for with unregulated corporate funds.

Public-relations consultant Craig McDonald is ordered to testify before grand jury with limited immunity; after some legal wrangling, McDonald agrees to turn over a limited number of documents related to ad campaign.

John Colyandro, former executive director of the Republican Majority group, and former T.A.B. lobbyist Lara Laneri Keel testify before grand jury.

State District Judge Mike Lynch hears arguments from lawyers on both sides of the grand jury investigation.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

  • More of the Story

  • Picking Up the TAB

    The Travis Co. DA and the courts consider Texas Association of Business money spent during the fall campaign.
  • Who's Suing Whom

    The battle over the Texas Association of Business political ad campaign is also being fought in the courts

    Campaign Finance Glossary

    Here's a handy guide to the major questions concerning campaign-finance law in Texas

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