Page 1


Tom DeLay, the former U.S. House majority leader. courtesy Newscom Randy DeLay and his niece, Danielle Ferro, did not respond to requests for comment. Tom DeLay’s spokesperson at First Principles, Shannon Flaherty, made one attempt to respond but could not be reached by press time. ELECTORAL LAWSUITS For six years, TRMPAC and TAB have defended themselves from civil and criminal cases alleging that they improperly influenced Texas’ 2002 elections to establish a Republican majority in the Texas House. In the first case to come to trial, five Democrats defeated by TRMPAC-backed Republicans sued three TRMPAC officials for allegedly violating Texas election laws. The state district judge overseeing the case ruled in 2005 that TRMPAC broke state law by failing to report more than $600,000 in corporate contributions \(it’s illegal in Texas for candidates to spend corporate money on In the end, Judge Joseph Hart agreed with the plaintiffs and ordered former TRMPAC Treasurer Bill Ceverha to pay $196,600 in damages. Ceverha is a former state lawmaker with close ties to Dallas oil magnate Louis Beecherl, who bankrolled TRMPAC and Craddick. After the 2002 election, Ceverha served on Craddick’s speaker transition team. Craddick then appointed him to the board of the Texas Employees Retirement System declared personal bankruptcy in 2005 to avoid paying his TRMPAC judgment. In addition, TRMPAC donors helped pay some of the more than $800,000 that Ceverha owed to the legal team that lost his case. TRMPAC’s No. 1 donor, Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, gave Ceverha $100,000. Ralph Ellis of Irving, who heads an oil company that pumped corporate cash into TRMPAC, loaned Ceverha $50,000. A school-voucher group maintained by TRMPAC donor James Leininger also handed Ceverha a 2005 lobbying gig. Ceverha’s bankruptcy filings note that his income jumped from less than $85,000 a year in the first four years of the millennium to more than $235,000 a year when his trial heated up at mid-decade. Ceverha’s more recent lobby disclosures suggest diminishing returns, with lobby contracts worth up to $35,000 in 2007 and none in 2008. All the while, Ceverha has continued to serve on the board of the state employees pension fund. Asked about the meaning of the TRMPAC scandal, Ceverha said, “What I would like to say is so outrageous that, knowing the slant of your paper, I don’t think I should tell you.” Encouraged to do so, Ceverha said, “Think about the fact that there have been people out there dangling in the wind for years and spending a personal fortune for no good reason:’ Two of the three attorneys who tried the civil case against Ceverha came from the now-defunct Austin firm Ivy Crews & Elliott. Cris Feldman has since joined the Houston criminal defense firm Rusty Hardin & Associates. In an odd twist, that firm now represents TRMPAC fundraiser Warren Robold, one of four TRMPAC defendants indicted by Earle \(the firm reportedly has Feldman sealed off from Feldman’s ex-partner Joe Crews is now at his own firm. Crews and the third plaintiff lawyer, David Richards \(who once was married to the future Gov. intend to eventually resume their civil case against two DeLay cronies, John Colyandro, the former TRMPAC director, and Jim Ellis, the former ARMPAC director. The plaintiff attorneys must wait until the criminal case against Ellis and Colyandro is resolved. A former employee of Karl Rove’s direct-mail shop, Colyandro’s main job has been running the Texas Conservative Coalition, which he founded in 1985. The Conservative Coalition accounts for most of the $180,387 that Texas PACs have reported paying Colyandro since 2003. Colyandro’s lawyer said the criminal charges have made it difficult for his client to make a living and “cost him a marriage:’ “As a Democrat, I’m still angry at what happened in the Lege in 2002,” said Austin attorney Joe Turner. “From a legal standpoint, I don’t think [Colyandro] violated the law. It’s time to end this nightmare for everyone and move on.” When the TRMPAC mess erupted in 2003, Colyandro and Ellis landed supplemental income, reporting their first Texas lobby contracts. ARMPAC was one client that paid Ellis to lobby that year in Austin, where Ellis camped out to help DeLay pass congressional redistricting. Ellis and Colyandro both reported receiving 2003 lobby contracts through Virginiabased Performance and Results International LLC \(see “There NOVEMBER 14, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17