JULY 17, 2006
A high-ranking Texas legislator has found a creative way to accept a million dollars from special interest groups, with high stakes in upcoming legislation, while avoiding state campaign and ethics laws on political contributions.
Gambling interests, the oil and gas industry, phone companies, lawsuit limitation advocates and millionaire businessmen have dished out a lot of cash to renovate Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick‘s lavish capitol apartment, better known as “Craddick’s Castle,” and the money is virtually unregulated.
It turns out that Craddick has his buddies and those who will benefit from his legislative powers donate the cash to the State Preservation Board, which makes it a gift to the state and therefore not subject to campaign finance laws.
Because the tax-payer funded apartment is located inside the Texas Capitol and the State Preservation Board maintains that area, Craddick gets his residence remodeled for free. The 2,000-square-foot apartment is getting $30,000 in kitchen appliances-which includes a $7,000 refrigerator–and fixtures and $1,000 toilets.
Financing is provided this lavish remodeling by the tax-deductible gifts of corporations that have benefited or stand to benefit from state legislation. Phone giant AT&T led the pack with a $250,000 gift, perhaps to thank the legislature for making it easier for phone companies to offer cable-like services.
Dallas energy mogul Boone Pickens gave another $250,000 and Dallas investor Harold Simmons, whose Waste Control Specialists pushed to create the radioactive waste dump, gave another $100,000. Maxxam Inc., which wants to offer video gambling at its horse and dog tracks in Houston and Harlingen, gave $25,000.
A couple of Texas advocacy groups have called for Craddick’s resignation and the Three Wise Men puts things in perspective, saying that Texas special interests paying for Craddick’s capitol building apartment is a symptom of longtime problems with office holders taking large sums from special interests.
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