Lilly Goes To Dallas Two days later Lilly took a trip to Dallas where she joined State Legislative $35,000. Delisi has put out a statement refusing to comment while the grand jury is investigating. Three days after her Houston trip, Lilly flew to Dallas on September 12, 2002, according to another itinerary obtained by the Observer. There she joined Rep. Delisi for a series of TRMPAC fund-raising meetings, this time with powerbrokers from the Dallas area. The two met with Fred Meyer, a former state Republican Party chairman and long-time GOP contributor. Eight days later, Meyer gifted $5,000 to TRMPAC. Delisi and Lilly also met with Jim Lightner, a reactionary who’s supported the campaigns of Pat Buchanan and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke. Five days later, Lightner, founder of defense contractor Electrospace Systems, gave TRMPAC $5,000. Delisi and Lilly also solicited money from James Lattimore, owner of Lattimore Materials, which provides ready mix concrete to North Texas builders. Five days after this meeting, Lattimore contributed $10,000 to TRMPAC. In all, he gave DeLay’s PAC $25,000 in the 2002 election cycle, in addition to $80,000 worth of contributions to Greg Abbott. To end their day in Dallas, according to the itinerary, Delisi and Lilly visited with Ebby Halliday Acers, wealthy founder of Ebby Halliday Realtors; later that month, she donated $5,000 to TRMPAC. Unlike the Houston meetings, however, the Dallas documents lack notes on potential legislation that donors wanted. Delisi later became part of Craddick’s leadership team and chair of the committee on State Health Care Expenditures. .1B 6 DM [see “Rise of the Machine,” August 29, 2003], Farmers Insurance and AT&T were among the biggest winners during the 78th Legislature. Farmers, which contributed $150,000 to TRMPAC, and other big insurance companies saved millions when the Lege decided not to require mandatory reductions of home insurance rates that had risen, in some cases, by more than 100 percent the previous year. As for AT&T, its $20,000 corporate contribution to TRMPAC and reported donations to TAB may have factored into the defeat of prized legislation for SBC. Its bill would have essentially booted AT&T entirely out of the Texas high-speed Internet market. It was the first time most Capitol insiders could remember a major SBC-backed bill ever failing to pass. Not to be outdone, Philip Morris gave $25,000 in corporate money to TRMPAC. The company was surely quite pleased when the Lege chose not to raise the state tax on cigarettes, which many lawmakers had proposed as a way to help close the state’s $10 million budget gap in 2003. One of TRMPAC’s biggest backers was the Boston-based Alliance of Quality Nursing Home Care, which donated $100,000 in corporate funds to TRMPAC’s cause. The alliance consists of 14 nursing home companies. Alliance Chairman Steve Guillard told the Austin American-Statesman in December that his organization gave to TRMPAC at the request of two Texas nursing homes that wanted to limit their legal liability in civil lawsuits. Months later, the Lege passed a sprawling tort reform bill that capped liability for many special interests, nursing homes among them. he big lie of politics is that money doesn’t influence legislation. Traditionally, however, that influence has been somewhat mitigated. A hefty campaign contribution won’t guarantee passage of your pet bill. It simply buys you access. It means a lawmaker will let you come to his or her office to argue your piece of public policy. In theory, the folks who disagree with you likely have donated just as much money to the same politicians and will gain the same access or they can produce voters. That’s not how it worked last session at the Texas Legislature. In 2003, it wasn’t politics as usual. Lilly and Woolley’s Houston memo and the subsequent success of TRMPAC benefactors during the 2003 legislative session hints at a staggering level of corruption in Texas augmented by overly safe legislative districts redrawn along partisan lines. “It was not just giving campaign contributions for access on a particular bill,” says McDonald of Texans for Public Justice. “It seems like they were announcing that they were selling policy or selling legislation so they could get money. It just connects a whole broader circle of corruption and power that is totally apart from what you learn in civics class.” Selling legislation in exchange for campaign contributions is illegal. But it’s quite unlikely that any member of TRMPAC or any lawmaker will be charged with bribery, simply because prosecutors can almost never prove a quid pro quo between campaign donations and legislation. Instead, Earle’s widening grand jury investigation of the 2002 election scandal continues to center on TRMPAC’s possibly illegal use of corporate money on campaign activities. It is unclear how high Earle’s investigation will go. But these scheduling memos appear to have pulled back a curtain on the nature of political power in Texas, and the sight is ugly indeed. “It is so broad and so ingrained in the political takeover in this state in the last couple of years,” McDonald says. “I hope [Earle] has the time and ability to get into all [its] aspects because it would be very enlightening for the state of representative government in Texas to see who really gets represented and how. Hopefully he will get to the bottom of some of it. Will he get to the bottom of all of it? I don’t know. It looks pretty massive:’ Observer intern Jeremy Brown contributed to this story. 3/12/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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