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Speaker, continued from page 7 speaker had not been as receptive to their interests as they would have liked. In 2000, Texas Republicans watched their governor go to the White House, yet they were still unable to capture the Legislature. Meanwhile, influential GOP strategists like Grover Norquist encouraged state Republicans to destroy their Democratic counterparts, espousing such slogans as “bipartisanship is another name for date rape.” “When bispartisanship broke down, I think you unleashed some forces that inched you back closer to the way things were during Sharpstown, in the sense of more concentrated control in the hands of the speaker,” believes Kinch. Tom Craddick had long yearned for the House speakership. When the mud salesman from Midland first entered the Texas House in 1969, he was one of just eight GOP legislators in a body the Democrats had dominated since 1869. But as Republicans asserted themselves in Texas under the leadership of Karl Rove and others, Craddick became more actively involved in trying to shape the Texas Legislature. For years, speculation on whom Republicans would choose for House speaker if they were to gain the majority centered on Craddick. He has been one of the caucus’ most conservative, dedicated, and long-standing members. In 1987 he ascended to House Republican caucus chair. More importantly, Craddick helped lead the effort to capture the Texas House. By the 1995 session, the state was tipping more Republican. The year before, the Democrats’ edge in the House shrank to 87-63. In the next election cycle, state Republicans launched a “76 in 96″ campaign. It would be the first of three efforts to win a majority of House seats by snatching them from vulnerable incumbent Democrats. In 1998, the GOP targeted 16 races but won a measly three. Two years later, Craddick and the GOP tried to topple Laney for the third time. The effort turned into a debacle due to a surprising lack of funds. A Republican operative explained it to the political newsletter Quorum Report too many balls in the air and somehow lost control of the Texas effort,” he said. DeLay is a key source of Republican campaign funds both in Texas and nationally. Without the expected help from DeLay, Republicans came nowhere near the $4 million they had hoped to raise. In the two months before the election, the Republican rank and file was rife with disorganization, and the GOP gained not a single seat in the Texas House. It was an especially bitter defeat for Craddick. He was determined that 2002 would be his year. While the Republicans owed part of their failure to conquer the House to their own bumbling, Laney and the Democrats slowed the GOP ascent with their own stash of campaign money. The Laney-led Texas Partnership PAC was founded in the early 1990s as a kind of trust fund for incumbent Democratic House members \(the committee never tried to unseat incumbent ever, the Partnership didn’t send checks directly to Democratic campaigns in 2002, according to campaign finance reports. Instead it made large contributions to the Democratic Party, which distributed the money. These efforts, along with Laney’s support among rural Republican reps, helped stave off Craddick’s grabs for the speakership. In the previous Republican attempts to snare control of the House, Craddick hadn’t formerly announced his candidacy for speaker because his prospects of winning were so meager. But seeing his dream within reach in 2002, Craddick filed as a speaker candidate with the ethics commission a year before the election. His entry into the speaker race meant Craddick needed to be extra prudent about his campaign activities to stay on the right side of the law. However, Craddick and TRMPAC may have violated two provisions of the speaker statute. The law expressly forbids any political action committee from lending “money or other things of value” to aid or defeat a speaker candidate. On the surface, TRMPAC’s cutting checks worth $152,000 for Craddick to distribute to a specific set of candidates appears to qualify as “aiding” his campaign for speaker. The speaker statute also outlaws socalled “legislative bribery.” It’s illegal for a speaker candidate to promise a chairmanship, passage of legislation or a campaign contribution to a House member in exchange for a vote in the speaker’s election. During the 2002 election, rumors circulated that TRMPAC and perhaps Craddick were doling out campaign contributions in return for pledges to vote for Craddick in the speaker’s race. Craddick’s handing out of $152,000 to 14 Republican House candidates raises the possibility that Craddick bought votes. Craddick strenuously denies this. While he admits handing out checks, Craddick has said the money wasn’t tied to speaker race votes. “There was no quid pro quo,” Craddick’s press secretary Bob Richter has insisted to the media. Nevertheless late last week, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle subpoenaed for the grand jury documents from Craddick’s office related to the speaker’s race. In a statement, Craddick promised to cooperate with the investigation. “I am satisfied that I, and all other candidates for Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 78th Legislature, conducted our races appropriately,” he said. What’s clear is that TRMPAC’s use of corporate money provided DeLay and Craddick’s PAC a huge advantage. TRMPAC spent a total of $1.4 million on the election, grossly outpacing the Partnership’s $835,420. That’s partly because it appears Laney’s Partnership accepted no corporate or union money in 2002, according to campaign records. Meanwhile, TRMPAC utilized corporate cash for almost all its administrative, fundraising, and entertainment expenses, and most of its political work such as polls and consultants. That freed up more hard money \(legal individual 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 2/27/04