Posting on, Scott Bennett gives his version of the history of Tom Craddick’s rise to power. One key passage involves the role of big donors:

“But the real force behind the Craddick candidacy wasn’t popularity with his fellow House members but the support of the man who may be the most powerful Republican in Texas: Dallas oilman Louis Beecherl, Jr. A former chairman of the UT Board of Regents, Beecherl employed former Dallas [actually Richardson–pb] state rep Bill Ceverha as a bag man for collecting prodigious amounts of campaign cash distributed through a variety of Political Action Committees – among them a PAC called TRM-PAC that now haunts Craddick (more on that later). Ceverha was a key operative in the GOP money machine and a staunch supporter of Craddick.

“Lining up with Beecherl were Houston home builder and GOP mega contributor Bob Perry. Also on board the Craddick bandwagon was San Antonio Physician Jim Leininger who had poured millions into the campaigns of lawmakers willing to back public school vouchers. While the three men gave millions themselves, their ability to raise millions more was legendary. The message to Republicans was clear: back our man Craddick and you can count on plenty of money in future campaigns. Challenge him, or back anyone who does and you will find yourself with a well funded primary challenger. Even Republicans who knew they were secure didn’t relish the prospect of waging a campaign they could otherwise avoid.”

“…Looming over all the electoral math is ethics. One example: At the behest of Louis Beecherl, the Speaker appointed Bill Ceverha to the Employees Retirement Board. Ceverha was in deep trouble over his relationship with TRM-PAC (he was Treasurer). TRM-PAC was the political action committee created by former Congressional Majority Leader Tom DeLay to elect Republicans to the Texas House so DeLay could force a mid-term redistricting effort to increase Republican Congressional seats. TRM-PAC activities have been the source of indictments, law suits and never ending bad press. Craddick really had little to do with TRM-PAC but has been tarred badly.”

Ceverha responded by posting a comment on the blog:

“Scott…Forgive the expression, but what a bunch of crap! A great example of if you don’t know the facts, just make them up. Great use of the “bag man” title for a little inflammatory additive. So would you use that term for anyone who raises money for political purposes?

“Yes, I was treasurer of TRMPAC, but Louis Beecherl had NOTHING to do with that happening. The man who asked me to be treasurer was John Colyandro, and my role followed a decade of helping the Republican party in similar roles in “76 in 96”, “8 in 98” and “House 2000”. I’ve never hid the fact that I am a partisan Republican, but at the same time I recognize that the great thing about our system is that people are free to choose sides and win or lose. Unlike some of the opposition, I don’t “hate” people for choosing the other side [emphasis added].


“An absolute zealot who, but for an accident of birth, could have been a Bolshevik revolutionary or a Middle Eastern bomb thrower. Shares the same drive to lay waste to anything that stands in opposition to his extreme conservative ideology, even if the innocent have to suffer in the explosion.

“A case in point: The Texas Commission for the Deaf. Its newsletter listed the subjects to be covered by 22 panels at a deaf women’s conference in California. Uh-oh. One was called “Gay Deaf Women.” Here came Ceverha, with handouts and speeches condemning the agency.”

[omitted material]

“Ceverha did chalk up one victory: he forced the resignation of an old foe, Sarah Weddington (a leading proponent of free choice regarding abortions), by revealing that she had taken excessive time off from the governor’s Washington office to travel at state expense. But Ceverha couldn’t find the brakes. Not content with getting Weddington, he tried to cripple the division where she had worked by cutting its funding 70 per cent. He got 2 votes out of 29.

It was vintage Ceverha: unable to stick to merit, driven by compulsion not just to beat his opponents but to discredit everything they are associated with, possessed of a deep incivility. He does not fit into a place where the formalities—“I reluctantly rise,” “Does the gentleman yield?” “Asks unanimous consent”—serve as constant reminders that things are never supposed to get too personal.”

[Ceverha’s response resumes]

“Again, Louis Beecherl had NOTHING to do with my appointment to the ERS Board, unpaid position. I was asked by the Speaker to take that position, repelacing a Laney appointee who failed to get Senate approvval, and I accepted.

“My appointment was confirmed by a bi-partisan vote in the Senate. The civil lawsuit against me as Treasurer, even though mine was a formal, but relatively passive role, was unprecedented in Texas history. The preliminary finding, also unprecedented, of that suit was NEVER finalized and is moot. I would also point out that we are now FOUR YEARS away from that election and while there has been a lot of press and speculation, not to mention reputations ruined, there has not been one criminal trial and of course, not one conviction.

“I note also you have joined the mantra of what a great bipartisan speaker was Pete Laney. Pete, who was a long-time friend in the legislature, was and is as partisan as they come.

“He spent a lot of his time raising money for Democrats , steered hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Stae Democratic Party through his PAC, and was the “star” attraction at hundreds of Democratic fund raisers. And, frankly, in our system, that’s his proper role. In the 2001 session, despite the Republicans closing in on almost 50% of the House, Laney’s “bipartisan” appointments broke down this way: Appropriations….9 Republicans, 19 Democrats; Calendars: 4 Republicans, 7 Democrats; Redistricting: 6 Republican, 9 Democrats; Total Committees: 38…13 Republicans, 25 Democrats, with the Republicans heading such “powerhouse” committees as Agriculture and Livestock, House Administration, Land and Resource Management, etc. Laney never had a Republican chair a key commitee, such as Appropriations or Calendars.

“While TRMPAC was raising money for campaigns in 2002, Laney’s ‘speaker’s pac’ was doing the same thing for Democrats, only it was being run right out of the speaker’s office, with the Chief of Staff one of the key players in the PAC’s activities.”