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SUPPORT PUBLIC LIBRARIES and the Observer by donating a tax-deductible Observer subscription to the Texas public library of your choice. Visit our website , or Texas public libraries and to order a subscription. TheTexas Observer would like to remind you that: DISSENT IS EDUCATIONAL. PIs, continued from page 5 It is unusual for an air permit for a power plant to be contested in court because most citizens don’t have money to pay for a lawyer and the technical issues are “so complex and so detailed that most citizens don’t have a chance to get their thoughts in order,” said Wendi Hammond, the lead attorney for the group. Hammond said they will appeal any unfavorable decision in Travis County District Court. The judges have until March 20 to send their recommendations to the TCEQ for a final ruling. THE RPT AVOIDS A PLEA This whole justice thing sure does take a while. On November 17, more than three years after the fact, a criminal investigation into how corporate money was raised and spent to influence the 2002 state campaign finally concluded. No, you didn’t miss a news flash: District Attorney Ronnie Earle’s odyssey-like inquiry into Tom DeLay and his cohorts is ongoing. Rather, it was Travis County Attorney David Escamilla who ended his 18-month investigation into the of corporate money in 2002. The party poured more corporate cashat least $5 millioninto the 2002 election than anyone else. Yet the RPT has reached a deal with Escamilla that allows it to avoid prosecution as long as it restricts its use of corporate funds in upcoming elections. Escamilla, who prosecutes misdemeanor charges, began his inquiry in mid-2003 after receiving a complaint about the state Republican Party’s campaign activities from the watchdog group Public Citizen. It’s illegal in Texas to use corporate money on political campaigns. Political parties in Texas can spend corporate money only on overhead, such as rent or other operating expenses. Last year, an Observer analysis of state Republican Party campaign filings revealed that the RPT used at least $2.9 million for electioneering activities such as a political phone bank, party mailers, voter lists, a registration drive, and “issue” advertising on behalf of candidates \(see “Party Time,” ditures in 2002 were part of a wideranging effort to take over the Texas House. In that effort, the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority and the Texas Association of Business allegedly funneled $2.5 million in corporate money into the campaign. Earle, who prosecutes felonies, has indicted DeLay and two colleagues on money laundering charges. Escamilla uncovered evidence that the state Republican Party paid $49,600 in corporate money to an Austin consult ing firm on August 22, 2002, for a voter registration and get-out-the-vote drive, according to the agreement. That’s in addition to $3,706 spent on a political consultant and $12,199 used for a voter registration mailer. The county attorney didn’t consider these corporate outlays to be purely administrative and was prepared to present the evidence to a grand jury. Under the deal, the Republican Party admits no wrongdoing, but avoids prosecution in exchange for the RPT’s agreement to use corporate money for only clear administrative expenses, as defined in state law. The RPT also agrees to file public disclosure reports that “allow a reasonable person reading the report to determine what goods, services, or property … were purchased.” The party’s 2002 state and federal filings are so convoluteda mess of transfers between a half-dozen different accountsthat some watchdog groups wondered if party officials weren’t trying to hide their activity. Also stipulated in the deal, RPT officials will take 10 hours of training classes on state election law \(these kinds of ethics classes really seem to be a growth industry pursue charges until March 31, 2007, if the party doesn’t follow through on the agreement. In a statement, the Republican Party of Texas spun its escape from prosecution as an example of its fiscal conservatism: “The agreement … is a victory for the taxpayers of Travis County and Texas. The parties have spared the Texas taxpayers the unnecessary drain of resources on long, drawn out, costly battles to clarify past laws that are vague and difficult to interpret.” FROM MURDER TO MERCY One rationale behind the death penalty: the ultimate crime, murder, is punished with the ultimate punishment, execution. Through this meting out of an eye for an eye, the families of the murdered see their suffering assuaged. Or at least that’s what some in the pro-death penalty victims’ rights movement believe. But the equation is never quite that simple. At the National Anti-Death 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 2, 2005