Sweet Taste of Justice

From Holden:

DeLay cronie Bill Ceverha, bankrupted by legal bills, is forced to pay Texas Democratic candidates that his illegal fundraising helped defeat.

The treasurer for Texans for a Republican Majority, a political committee at the heart of almost four years of criminal investigations and civil litigation, has paid $65,000 to former Democratic candidates in an attempt to end his role in the campaign finance saga.

During the 2002 elections, former Dallas lawmaker Bill Ceverha was treasurer of the committee founded by former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay. Ceverha filed for personal bankruptcy last fall after a judge ruled he had violated state law by failing to disclose $600,000 of corporate money the committee spent to defeat Democrats.


Ceverha always maintained he did nothing wrong, but he filed for bankruptcy as an attempt to remove himself from years of appeals and other lawsuits. The Democrats, however, claimed his bankruptcy was a sham, arguing that Ceverha had transferred assets and paid “friendly creditors” to deny claims by the Democratic candidates.

Earlier this month, the two sides reached a settlement that allowed Ceverha to complete bankruptcy. He paid almost a third of the $196,660 in damages that a judge awarded five Democratic candidates, including Austin’s Ann Kitchen, a former legislator defeated in 2002.


The committee raised the corporate money mostly from Washington lobbyists representing companies with legislation pending before Congress. The money was spent on consultants, pollsters, professional fundraisers and, according to an indictment against DeLay, was laundered into campaign donations through an arm of the Republican National Committee.

Although DeLay and two associates, Jim Ellis of Washington and John Colyandro of Austin, are fighting the felony charges, the indictments contributed to DeLay retiring from Congress this month. And although Ceverha was never charged with a crime, he was the lone defendant tried in a civil lawsuit over basically the same allegations.


“TRMPAC was an effort by Tom DeLay and his gang to rob working Texans of a voice at the state Capitol and to consolidate their power,” lawyer Cris Feldman said. “For us, it was never a case about money. It was a case about whether the state’s highest public officials and large corporate interests are above the law, and whether Texas law permits secret corporate cash in elections.”


In declaring bankruptcy, Ceverha claimed $1 million in debts and reported that he incurred more than $900,000 in legal bills.