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fv” uriCi,L EIN E’LLOGENCE Exit Strategies BANKRUPT BILL Allegedly we’re living in the age of personal responsibility, an ownership society, in which government esteems individual wealth above all, lionizes the captains of industry, and passes legislation to crack down on free-loaders who abuse the federal bankruptcy laws. What to make then of Bill Ceverha, a man whose dealings as a campaign treasurer drove him into bankruptcy, yet who continues to be entrusted with helping to manage nearly $20 billion in state investments? Ceverha is a Republican campaign consultant, lobbyist, and man-abouttown political insider. Somewhere in that list must be included his current spot on the board of trustees for the Texas Employee Retirement System health benefits and one of the biggest pots of money in state government: $19.9 billion worth of retirement investments for all current and former state employees. In early October, Ceverha filed for bankruptcy protection from his creditors, a week before stricter new federal bankruptcy guidelines backed by the GOP took effect. Like many others who seek bankruptcy, Ceverha’s financial troubles stem from a calamitous event, though in his case, it wasn’t a severe health problem or loss of employment or, even, a dramatic increase in the lobbyist registration fee. Rather, Ceverha was done in by his association with two Texas TomsTom DeLay and Tom Craddick. Ceverha served as treasurerat least in namefor the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority political For three years, an Austin grand jury has been investigating the organization. TRMPAC allegedly funneled illegal corporate money to Texas legislative candidates, with the ultimately successful goal of electing Ceverha’s good friend Craddick as Texas House speaker and instituting DeLay-brand congressional redistricting. The inquiry has so far resulted in the indictment of DeLay and two associates on money laundering and conspiracy charges, as well as indictments of eight corporations who supplied the money and the DeLay associate who raised it. A year after Ceverha’s work with TRMPAC, on July 15, 2003, Craddick boosted his crony onto the unpaid, sixmember ERS board. \(The Speaker of the Texas House can appoint one trustee to the board; the governor and chief justice also each have an appointee, and three others are elected by state step of replacing former Democratic Speaker Pete Laney’s appointee with Ceverha, who is serving the remainder of a term that ends in 2008. The 68-year-old Ceverha hasn’t been charged in the criminal investigation, but he was a TRMPAC defendant in a civil lawsuit brought by three defeated Democratic candidates. The lawsuit alleged that Ceverha, as TRMPAC treasurer, wronged the Democratic candidates in 2002 by steering illegal corporate money to their Republican opponents. Ceverha testified that his title of treasurer was more ceremonial than anything else, and even though 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 4, 2005