There’s a satirical e-mail circulating around the Capitol crowd taking a “future” look at the legal implications of contributions House Speaker Joe Straus made during the 2010 election season.

While clearly written in (scathing) jest, the anonymous writer raises an interesting — and intriguing — question: were the contributions Mr. Straus made illegal?

Where there is satirical smoke, there can sometimes be factual fire. As such, legislators and constituents alike would do well to keep their eyes on a possible ethical blaze.

Just a little background before reading this… According to state law, under the heading “legislative bribery,” it’s a felony to make campaign contributions “with the intent to influence a member of or candidate for the house of representatives in casting a vote for speaker.”

Looking into the fog of the future, this is one scenario that is all too likely to play out….this has not happened yet, this is only SPECULATION.
DRAFT PRESS RELEASE (SPECULATION ONLY)
Travis County District Attorney
re: violations of the Texas Ethics Commission, Legislative Bribery (Chap 302 Subchapter C. Legislative Bribery of the Government Code)
March 2011

The District Attorney today announced indictments of Speaker of the House Joe Straus and 24 incumbent Republican Representatives.

The indictments cite an accusation that Speaker Straus and nearly one-third of all Republicans in the House violated the Texas Ethics Commission prohibition against both offering and receiving anything of economic benefit in return for a vote for Speaker. Sec. 302.031 defines “economic benefit” as including campaign donations. Campaign donations directly from Speaker Straus clearly violated state law.

24 Republican Representatives who received campaign donations from Speaker Straus also voted to reelect him as Speaker. The indictment cites an obvious quid pro quo of campaign dollars for votes for Speaker. The District Attorney announced that nearly a third of the Republican caucus was involved in the money-for-votes scheme. The indictments involve a potential felony violation of the law, and the District Attorney noted that to the full extent of the law, the office would seek the revocation of professional licenses of those convicted.

The District Attorney also revealed that two Representatives and three key staff have been granted immunity in return for their full cooperation in the prosecution of the remaining 22 indicted legislators and numerous unindicted co-conspirators.

Press Release (SPECULATION ONLY)
Speaker Joe Straus

Speaker Straus responded to the indictments by issuing a statement that he has done everything ethically. He also insisted that no legislator was ever required to honor any so-called pledge card. He was just being helpful with campaign donations and the failure to use a PAC was a simple oversight not meant to violate the law. The Speaker was shocked, shocked, that anyone thought he expected any support for Speaker in return for campaign cash, He asked, “Why can’t you just accept it is simply a coincidence that every recipient of his campaign cash voted to reelect him as Speaker?”

Burka Blog (SPECULATION ONLY)

Felony indictments hit a third of all House Republicans. Republicans prove once again they are incompetent to govern and they cannot read even a two page ethics law. Burka noted that Straus offered no explanation as to why he gave thousands of dollars to certain Republicans who had no serious challenge in the election if not to just get their vote for Speaker. Do you really think any jury will believe: ‘They were friends and supporters of mine, why shouldn’t I give them campaign cash? It had nothing to do with my race for Speaker!”

Press Release (SPECULATION ONLY)
House Minority Democrats

“These indictments are long overdue. No Democrat accepted any campaign cash from Speaker Straus. No Democrat is implicated in this travesty. Republican corruption is nothing new, but we have never seen anything on this scale before. This sort of inside dealing and corruption always happens with one party rule. The huge Republican majority represents an arrogance run amok. We see the pattern: Big corporations fattened Joe Straus’ campaign and he turned around and selected a key candidates to hand money to, and it just so happens that every single one of them voted to elect him Speaker. The shameless arrogance and apparent brazen disregard for the law should come as no surprise. It is just how Republicans do government. We now view our opportunities to replace these indicted members as superb and believe the Texas House will return to Democrat control.”

Press Release (SPECULATION ONLY)
Texans for Public Justice

The rampant corruption alleged by the indictments directly affects nearly a third of the Republicans in the House. We note that all past candidates for Speaker made sure campaign donations came to campaigns from PACs, never directly from the Speaker and his campaign. It is inexplicable that Speaker Straus simply ignored the obvious letter of the law and his cronies in the Legislature…24 by last count.. dutifully fulfilled their “pledge” to reelect him as Speaker.. after they pocketed campaign cash to get elected.

A simple reading of the law would have educated anyone on the obvious illegality of Straus’ “donations”, but either the Republicans were too greedy to stop to read the law or just so arrogant they assumed the law did not apply to them. The felony indictments issued by the Travis County District Attorney should get their attention.”

Texas Republican Party (SPECULATION ONLY)
Press Release

Wanted: candidates to fill 25 vacancies in the House of Representatives….and please do not forget to write your checks to the House Republican Fund so we can win some more races in 2012, or at least a few races anyway. Remember: two-thirds of House Republicans were NOT tarnished and smeared by the sorry episode.

CONCLUSION:Maybe none of this will happen. Maybe it will all just go away.

None of it will happen until after the recorded votes for Joe Straus for Speaker and the link between economic benefit (defined under the law as campaign donations) and the vote for Speaker is there for all to see. Remember, this is all just rank speculation; it is certainly possible that nothing will ever come of this. And there is some very nice ocean front property in Arizona for sale too.

NOTE: Author unknown.


 

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

RELATED POSTS