Illus tra t ion by Ma tt Omo hun dro. Ceverha, a state representative from 1977 to 1989, as someone who had very little interaction with TRMPAC, even going on vacation for much of the summer of 2002. The real “decision maker” was TRMPAC executive director John Colyandro. “And you will see a pattern of activity where John Colyandro makes decisions and does things, some of them even sending letters with Bill Ceverha’s name, that he never saw or approved or authorized, only to show that Bill Ceverha’s involvement was very minimal.” Throughout the trial, witnesses would point to Colyandro’s involvement and responsibility in the enterprise, quite possibly deepening the former TRMPAC executive director’s legal troubles. But Colyandro’s attorney, Joe Turner, does not believe that the civil trial will have an impact on the criminal charges of money laundering and campaign violations that Colyandro faces. “Our position is that no one committed a crime here,” he says. Next Ceverha took the stand. The 68year-old former newsman has expressed bitterness about the process and by the end of his testimony his complaints of an “unfair system” poured forth. “It has cost a lot of money and a lot of time and a lot of stress in my family, and I wanted to have my day in court, and I’m finally getting it.” However, he looked less than happy at the oppor tunity as he lashed out at the plaintiffs and their attor neys: “They have intimidated contributors. They have brought activities of TRMPAC to a screeching halt. The PAC, while still theoretically alive, has been inactive since we’ve gotten into this suit. And in that, they have been successful.” The next day, reporters packed the courtroom in anticipation of the testimony of TAB President Bill Hammond, who had not been deposed in the case. In the 2002 campaign, TAB sent out 86 mailers and four million mail pieces as part of their $1.7 million “education” effort. Hammond testified how he coordinated closely with Colyandro and TRMPAC. Together they agreed that TRMPAC would pay for polling to identifyvoters and TAB would then mail to them. Individual campaigns were discussed, sometimes with the participation of a representative of Texans for Lawsuit Reform. Hammond’s testimony further strained the TAB’s definition of their independent issue campaign and could well come back to haunt him in civil or criminal proceedings. The next day, TAB campaign consultant Chuck McDonald further detailed how the Republican effort worked. McDonald has already testified before the Travis County grand jury and the trial presented the first opportunity to hear what he likely told them. He detailed regular meetings between Colyandro, Hammond, and Mike Toomey, then a lobbyist but soon to be chief of staff to Gov. Rick Perry. “The three individuals that I mentioned all would talk to me about the message and, you know, the strategy and those kind of things,” he testified. McDonald portrayed the effort as massive, with huge amounts of mail being produced and sent out in a very short period of time. “We were very busy,” he said. It was not until four days into the trial on March 3 that the focus shifted to the issue of a check for $190,000 in corporate contributions that was sent in September 2002 to the Republican National State Elections Committee in Washington, D.C. Two weeks later, on October 4, RNSEC sent the $190,000 back as seven now non-corporate contributions to Texas Republican candidates. In the criminal proceedings this transaction is alleged to have been money laundering and has resulted in felony charges against Ellis and Colyandro. Ceverha had testified that he was aware of the transaction and that it had been discussed on a conference call with the TRMPAC advisory board, in which he did not participate. \(This could have been of interest to staffers from the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, who Scarborough called Charlie Spies, a lawyer from RNSEC, as a defense witness. Conveniently, Spies himself had no personal knowledge of the transaction. Spies explained how corporate money was less valuable than individual contributions, since it carried certain prohibitions. Normally, when corporate money is sent to RNSEC, the exchange rate for hard money would be of a lesser amount. Spies described the TRMPAC exchange as “an ill-advised swap.” But he insisted that since it’s perfectly legal to send corporate money to RNSEC and for the organization to send hard money to Texas, there was nothing illegal about the transaction. The $190,000 was just a small sum of money in a larger pool that went back and forth between Texas and D.C. He then gave one of the more memorable quotes of the trial. “My comment would be, ‘so what?'” To make a point in his cross-examination, Feldman had Spies stand in front of an easel. Together they went down the list of seven checks that RNSEC cut on the very same day, writing the amount and the check number of each on the easel. The numbers were sequen Bill Ceverha and John Colyandro. cal. i 1 -1t I t.AI UbSLENER AUGUST 26, 2005
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