T.A.B. Staff Held in Contempt

After two rejections from appellate courts, the Texas Association of Business filed a third appeal this week in its struggle to fend off a grand-jury inquiry into its alleged violations of Texas campaign finance laws. The six-month investigation took another twist Monday when District Judge Mike Lynch found two T.A.B. employees in contempt of court for refusing to testify. The staffers, Jack Campbell and Cathy DeWitt, were released on $2,500 personal-recognizance bonds.

T.A.B. attorney Andy Taylor is asking the state Court of Criminal Appeals -- which has already rejected the group's case -- to reconsider T.A.B.'s arguments. "Thus far we have not been able to get an appellate court to review our claim on First Amendment rights," Taylor said Tuesday as he prepared paperwork for filing. "The court ruled that unless and until T.A.B. is forced to answer a question and refuses to answer, then it could not rule on the merits of the case." Campbell and DeWitt have now provided the CCA with that opportunity, Taylor says. He vowed that his clients, including T.A.B. president and CEO Bill Hammond, would continue to refuse to testify on constitutional grounds.

The business lobby group is accused of using corporate contributions to secretly finance a $1.9 million mass mailing targeting 24 legislative races in the 2002 election. The group predominantly favored Republican candidates over Democrats and is credited with helping to commandeer GOP control of the House for the first time since Reconstruction. The creator of some of the ads in question, public-relations consultant Chuck McDonald, was also summoned to testify -- against T.A.B.'s wishes. The district attorney's office has granted McDonald immunity in exchange for his testimony.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Amy Smith
The Work Matters
The Work Matters
A look back at some of our most impactful reporting

Sept. 3, 2021

Well-Behaved? Let's Assume Not.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story
Barbara Leaming's new biography makes the case that Jackie O suffered from PTSD

Nov. 28, 2014

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle