Tomstown Suits Go Forward
A Travis Co. judge declines TRMPAC's motions for summary judgment
Byrne also denied, without comment, TRMPAC's "no-evidence" motion for summary judgment. TRMPAC founder Jim Ellis, aide to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, was added as a defendant following depositions suggesting he played a decisive role in the PAC's campaign activities, but Ellis has indicated that he intends to argue that he hasn't had sufficient Texas contact to be subject to the suit.
On a related front the Travis Co. grand jury investigation into the election activities of TRMPAC and the Texas Association of Business it was reported last week that AT&T has been subpoenaed concerning the company's contributions of corporate ("soft") money to TRMPAC. AT&T is one of numerous companies for which TRMPAC reported corporate contributions in its filings with the Internal Revenue Service but not with the Texas Ethics Commission. In its original 2003 complaint to Travis Co. District Attorney Ronnie Earle which kicked off the DA's grand jury probe the campaign watchdog group Texans for Public Justice questioned whether TRMPAC had spent corporate money on campaign activities, in violation of state law.
Also last week, the Federal Election Commission levied a $280,000 fine against the National Republican Congressional Committee for spending corporate donations on 1999 "issue ad" campaigns, in violation of federal election law violations similar to those at the heart of the Tomstown proceedings. Jim Ellis had been named in the original complaint for his role of political consultant to Americans for Economic Growth, which received some of the money, but the FEC did not sanction Ellis or AEG. According to the conciliation agreement between the FEC and the NRCC, "The NRCC representative who hand-delivered the check to [the United States Family Network, coordinating the ad campaign] made statements at the time to the effect that the NRCC did not want to know how the funds would be used." Ellis released a statement saying the FEC action was punishment for no more than an "accounting error."