Texas Democrats on Wednesday called for Gov. Rick Perry to cancel a $180,000-a-year state lobby contract they contend was used to funnel taxpayer money into Republican campaigns.
Perry's office called the allegations a "baseless, partisan move" and defended the contracts as nonpartisan.
Drew Maloney, a former chief of staff to embattled Rep. Tom DeLay, was one of two lobbyists hired by the Texas Office of State-Federal Relations in 2003 to represent Texas interests in the nation's capital. Once awarded the contract, Maloney made more than $75,000 in contributions to Republican campaigns, both nationally and in Texas.
"It's unbelievable to find, in effect, laundering taxpayer money to put in the coffers of Republican politicians in the state of Texas," said Democratic Texas Rep. Jim Dunnam. "It's an outrage, and it's unbelievable."
The Republican-led Texas Legislature approved spending $1.1 million on the contracts, despite repeated attempts by Democrats to redirect the money into state programs. The contracts expire in 2007.
"Gov. Perry should not continue to waste huge sums of taxpayer money to fund the unnecessary lobby contract of another man who is directly involved in the unseemly activities of Tom DeLay," Dunnam said. "Why do we spend $1.1 million state tax dollars on lobbyists when Texas is home to 32 congressmen and women, two senators and the president of the United States?"
The state lobbyists have helped the state secure more federal money for state programs, said Perry spokeswoman Rachel Novier. "We're getting a really good return on our investments for the dollars that we spend for the Office of State-Federal Relations and for advocating on behalf of Texas in Washington," she said.
Maloney, who could not be reached for comment, is employed by the Washington lobby firm the Federalist Group, which he joined in 2002 "to serve as the chief lobbyist for House Republican Leadership," the group's Web site says. (He was also) a key figure in 2002 fundraising that has led to criminal charges against DeLay and two of his associates, who are accused of using restricted corporate money in Texas campaigns.
Another lobbyist in the office, Todd Boulanger, once worked closely with confessed influence peddler Jack Abramoff. Boulanger has a $330,000 contract with the state.
There's also this, from Harvey Kronberg's Quorum Report Executive Summary of 1/13/06 (emphasis his) :
Today, the Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting joined a number of non-partisan organizations in calling for bankrupt lobbyist Bill Ceverha to immediately resign his position on the Employee Retirement System (ERS) Board. Ceverha, who was found to have violated state law in his role as Treasurer for Tom DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), was appointed to the ERS Board by Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, the primary beneficiary of the illegal TRMPAC-Delay 2002 campaign effort.
“If you told friends or co-workers that a bankrupt lobbyist who has violated state campaign finance laws was sitting on the board that oversees a $20 billion retirement fund, they’d say that was nuts,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting.
Is this a simple culture of corruption, or has the culture grown out of the petri dish, spread out across the table, and in fact consumed the entire science laboratory?