Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Dramatic Death

House Bill 1348, the campaign finance bill that would clean up some of the worst abuses arising out of the 2002 campaign went down to an ignoble defeat today on the House floor. Supporters of the bill tried to dislodge it from the Elections Committee chaired by Rep. Mary Denny (R- Flower Mound), who herself benefited from the TRMPAC campaign.

The effort to circumvent the committee process died after remarks by Austin Republican Terry Keel, who was a co-signer on the bill but says the motion to force action was "a tool used for partisan gain" to attack Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland). Most all the Democratic members of the leadership team voted against the motion to hear the bill, including Rep. Vilma Luna (D-Corpus Christi), Rep. Al Edwards (D-Houston), Rep. Kino Flores (D-Mission), Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), and Rep. Robert Puente (D-San Antonio).

Another Democrat who is not a member of the leadership team but voted against the bill was Rep. Aaron Pena (D-Edinburgh). Pena was also a co-signer on the bill. He says that his vote was a pragmatic one. "They won't listen to us if it's just partisanship."

Fred Lewis, of the watchdog group Campaigns for People and one of the bill's primary backers, said:

"Craddick killed HB 3488. He did it for two reasons. The first is that lawyers told him it would hurt him and his friends in the civil and criminal investigation. The second is that TAB and Craddick wanted to maintain the corporate money, the corporate whip to keep the members in line. It’s like crack cocaine, they can’t give it up. Craddick never seriously engaged with us. He never wanted it to pass. Craddick wasn’t involved in killing this bill like he wasn’t involved in TRMPAC."