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EDITORIAL History Repeats Itself In 2002, a clique of radical Republicans backed by specific moneyed interests stormed the halls of power in Texas, winning every lever of state government. They now face their biggest challenge in six years. The current election cycle, and the one coming in 2010, will determine who controls legislative and congressional redistricting to be crafted and ratified by the 82nd Texas Legislature in 2011. As the demographics of the state rapidly shift away from traditional Republican constituencies, the only way this clique can extend its death grip on state government is by locking in gains through redistricting. They obtained victory the first time with the goal of controlling congressional redistrictingthrough the use of massive amounts of corporate cash and a smear campaign of questionable “issue ads” sent to voters and aired on television. Corporate money for electioneering has been illegal in the state for more than a century. The 2002 campaign, coordinated by the two TomsDeLay and Craddickbecame the focus of civil and criminal prosecutions that resulted in indictments and hefty fines. Subsequent bipartisan efforts to strengthen campaign finance laws in the Legislature foundered at Speaker Craddick’s door. Nonetheless, existing laws and the threat of further prosecutions seemed to offer some measure of protection from the dirty campaigning of six years ago. Now, just when you thought it was safe to go back to your mailbox, those protections are being stripped away. A lawsuit by a group of conservative organizations, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, won an injunction to suspend the speaker’s statute enacted after the last wave of scandals in the 1970s. The statute forbids outside groups from spending money to influence the election of a speaker. While the state has never prosecuted anybody for violating the law, its removal will likely serve as a green light for the business interests that have profited so handsomely under Craddick’s rein to spend freely to defeat candidates who oppose him. Court rulings have also imperiled the civil and criminal prosecutions. The Texas Association of Business was indicted on two counts for using $1.7 million from secret corporate sourcesmostly big insurance companies, it was later revealedfor a series of shady issue ads in 2002. Several losing Democratic candidates also filed civil suits against the groups. Prosecutors and the civil lawsuits have argued that the issue ads are designed to defeat particular candidates and therefore qualify as electioneering. The TAB argued the issue ads were for educational purposes. As long as the ads don’t openly advocate for or against candidates \(by using words like “defeat” or material and can legally be funded with corporate money On April 5, state District Judge Joe Hart dismissed the civil lawsuit filed against the TAB by former Democratic state Rep. Ann Kitchen, who lost her seat in 2002 after a series of TAB issue ads flooded her district on behalf of her opponent. A year ago, state District Judge Mike Lynch dismissed the criminal indictments of the TAB, a decision that Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle’s office is appealing. While the debate over issue ads raged in court, many groups have viewed the issue ad strategy as too risky, because the law was unclear. But if the courts continue to side with the TABand the Legislature doesn’t clarify campaign finance lawthen issue ads could come back with a vengeance. Recent court decisions have carved a path for corporate money in Texas elections that reform-minded Texans have tried to keep closed for more than a century. It’s time for a strong, clear, enforceable campaign finance law that stems the flow once and for all. THE TEXAS OBSERVER I VOLUME 100, NO. 8 I A journal of Free Voices Since 1954 Founding Editor Ronnie Dugger CEO/Executive Publisher Carlton Carl Executive Editor Jake Bernstein Managing Editor Brad Tyer Associate Editor Dave Mann Publisher Charlotte McCann Associate Publisher Julia Austin Circulation Manager Sandra Beckmeier Art Director Leah Ball Investigative Reporter Melissa del Bosque Poetry Editor Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editor Rusty Todd Staff Writer Forrest Wilder Marketing Asst. Robby Brown Editorial Intern Brad Briggs, Patrick Caldwell, Leah Finnegan, Tobias Salinger Contributing Writers Nate Blakeslee, Gabriela Bocagrande, Robert Bryce, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Steven G. Keliman, James McWilliams, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, Karen Olsson, John Ross, Andrew Wheat Staff Photographers Alan Pogue, Jana Birchum, Steve Satterwhite Contributing Artists Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Gary Oliver, Doug Potter Editorial Advisory Board David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Sissy Farenthold, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid, Rusty Todd Texas Democracy Foundation Board Mary Margaret Farabee, Melissa Jones, Jim Marston, Mary Nell Mathis, Gilberto Ocanas, Jesse Oliver, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips, Geronimo Rodriguez, Sharron Rush, Kelly White, In Memoriam Molly Ivins, 1944-2007 Bob Eckhardt, 1913-2001 Cliff Olofson, 1931-1995 The Texas Observer \(ISSN 0040-4519/ righted 2008, is published biweekly except during January and August when there is a 4 week break by the Texas Democracy Foundation, West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. E-mail [email protected] World Wide Web DownHome page . Periodicals Postage paid at Austin, TX and at additional mailing offices. Subscriptions One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13 per year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 pre paid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Books & the Culture is funded in part by the City of Austin \(1=”1 through the Cultural Arts Division and by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts. APRIL 18, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3