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“I hope you will consider asking your col leagues in the insurance industry to write a check for $50,000 or $100,000 to the TAB voter education effort. Contributions for this purpose are not reportable,” wrote TAB President Bill Hammond. TAB President Bill Hammond Photo by Jana Birchum George W. Bush into the White House.Tom DeLay was soon to become U.S. House Majority Leader. His vindictiveness, unmatched even in Washington, D.C., had earned him the nickname, “The Hammer.” DeLay’s ability to control a seemingly endless flow of campaign cash made him one of the most powerful politicians in Washington. Perry had switched parties, scaled the steps of Texas politics, and slid into the governor’s mansion in January 2001 as a replacement for George W. Bush. His close friend Mike Toomey was one of the most influential lobbyists in Austin with a client list that included among others AT&T, large insurance companies, and Enron. The long-suffering Tom Craddick had risen to Republican caucus chair and desperately wanted to be House Speaker. A cadre of former legislators-turned-lobbyists, all seemingly named Bill, stood ready to volunteer their expertise and reap the rewards of victory. The stage had been set. Thanks to Rove, Bush, and Democratic bungling,Texas had tacked hard to the right. For years, Texas Republicans struggled to displace the Democratic majority in the statehouse. Leading the charge The group had funded loosely organized attempts to overbelieved had not sufficiently embraced tort reform. Not only would such legislation free business from costly lawsuits, it was a natural for Republicans since it targeted a pillar of Democratic funding: trial lawyers. TLR and the TAB had joined for the first time in 2000 to oust Laney, spending $1.4 million and $30,000 respectively. They had whittled the Democratic edge in the House down to six seats but had fallen short of total victory. The 2001 legislative session, coinciding as it did with the census, brought redistricting. During the session the Republican-controlled Senate stopped a House redistricting plan. This allowed a GOP-dominated legislative redistricting board to draw a highly favorable map. But even with legislative districts slanted in their favor, the machine needed a big margin of victory in order to install Craddick as Speaker and not some moderate Republican. In a press release immediately after the November general election, Hammond would recount boastfully: “There was a unique opportunity to change the face of the legislature. [TAB] made a decision to participate on an unprecedented level. That is why at the close of the session in 2001, TAB devoted all its efforts to raising money to promote pro-business candidates in key House and Senate races.” The TAB needed money quickly and in a quantity most easily found through corporate sources. Under Terrell’s law, a corporation can’t spend its own money for non-administrative election activities, even for its own political action committee. Hammond desperately wanted to tap corporate funds. But how to spend that money and not run afoul of the law? The TAB couldn’t use its regular political action corn 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 8/29103