More Texas Money Laundering

From Holden:

Oh, my. Texas Governor Rick Perry is rapidly being sucked into the legal whirlpool that has engulfed Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff, much to the delight of one of his gubernatorial campaign foes, Little Scottie’s mom.

The maelstorm surrounds Goodhair Perry’s decision to hire private lobbying firms connected to both DeLay and Abramoff to replace Texas’ own Office of State-Federal Relations. It looks like the lobbyists took state payments from Perry and turned them into campaign donations for Delay, a creative twist on a common Republican tactic.

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn [yeah, that’s Scott McClellan’s mom] , responding to a report in the Houston Chronicle, said Thursday that she will audit payments made by the state’s Washington office to a private lobbyist to see if the money was misused for political purposes.

The Chronicle had reported that one of the state’s contract lobbyists, Cassidy & Associates, spent $7,600 to host a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority on March 2, less than two weeks after receiving its first monthly state payment of $15,000. The firm’s lead lobbyist, Todd Boulanger, has close ties to DeLay and his aides.

Texas House Democratic Chairman Jim Dunnam said Thursday that Cassidy’s vice chairman, Gregg Hartley, formally signed the firm’s contract with the Texas Office of State-Federal Relations on the same day the firm paid for the ARMPAC fundraiser. Hartley made a personal donation of $5,000 to ARMPAC later in the month.

“The same guy, on the same day, nearly simultaneously signs a state lobby contract worth $15,000 a month and hosts a fundraiser for Mr. DeLay,” Dunnam said. “And they want Texas taxpayers to believe these two events have nothing to do with one another? Even my third-grader can connect the dots on this thing.”

[snip]

Dunnam has accused OSFR’s private lobbyists of converting their taxpayer payments into campaign donations for Republicans.

Strayhorn, whose office issues all state checks based on warrants from state agencies, said she will audit the payments to Cassidy & Associates for any signs of political misuse of state funds. “If during my audit I find that Cassidy & Associates inappropriately used tax dollars, I will immediately suspend all future payments and take the necessary steps to make sure these dollars are returned to the state,” Strayhorn said.