A Wider War On GOP Bucks

More allegations of campaign finance violations were levied this week in connection with last year's Republican victories at the polls. On Monday, Texans for Public Justice, a nonprofit group that tracks money in politics, asked Travis Co. District Attorney Ronnie Earle to investigate apparent discrepancies in campaign records filed by Texans for a Republican Majority.

In its complaint, TPJ states that the group's IRS filings show the PAC raised and spent about $1.5 million during the 2002 election cycle, while state records reveal the PAC raised and spent just under $800,000 in political funds during the same period. Other info filed with the IRS shows that the Republican Majority PAC accepted $602,000 from more than 30 corporations and listed at least $619,266 in expenditures. The group failed to list this information in its state filings, TPJ contends.

Texans for a Republican Majority was created a year ago to help usher GOP candidates into the state Legislature and ensure the elevation of Rep. Tom Craddick to the speaker's post. Earle's office is investigating similar allegations of campaign finance violations against the Texas Association of Business, including charges that T.A.B. illegally coordinated its campaign spending with TRM. John Colyandro, the latter group's former executive director, has testified before a grand jury in connection with the T.A.B. investigation.

TPJ Director Craig McDonald says the paper trail suggests that the two organizations collaborated in their drive to win a GOP majority at the Capitol. "It looks like [the two groups] worked hand-in-hand to electioneer with illicit corporate funds," McDonald said. "We urge the prosecutor to determine if this new Republican majority is in fact an illegal majority."

Within hours after the complaint was filed, T.A.B. attorney Andy Taylor called the charges "another round of orchestrated political attacks," and accused Earle and others of trying to make T.A.B. the "scapegoat" for the GOP victory in November. "I welcome the opportunity to defend my client and its First Amendment rights so this unwarranted public vilification will end." Earle's office is still reviewing the TPJ complaint, which can be viewed online at www.tpj.org.

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