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October 15, 2004

Did Todd Baxter Lie? II

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

To add to the Baxter Story that Byron commented on earlier today...

I've actually been running though hundreds of these ethics filings as part of a project I'm working on for one of my classes here at UT so I've become very use to patterns that have emerged and noticing how Republicans and Democrats funnel their money.

The Democrats in 2002 left much of the work to the Texas Democratic Party as far as staff, direct mail, and polling was concerned (all in in-kind contributions). The Republicans that I have looked at so far in the House elections have not had any in-kind contributions from the Texas Republican Party other than a voter file once in a while, which is low cost and fairly normal. Instead, their in-kind biggie contributions are from TRMPAC and Texans for Lawsuit Reform for things such as "Contract For America" or research.

Now, as far as the corrected report goes... it's not uncommon that candidates file a corrected report because with that much data, little things like an address or name or such do get left off. I've noticed this under the reasons for filing a corrected report from both parties. And in most cases, it's done within just a few days or maybe a week after the report was supposed to have been filed. Maybe a couple of months max, for those that don't file electronically or are running for the first time, due to not being used to all the laws and the reporting system. Baxter, like others, has a number of corrected reports over the years due to this.

BUT... I have not seen as a 'common' occurance, the filing of a corrected report nearly ONE YEAR and FOUR months after the date of the filed report it's correcting. It just doesn't happen.

In between filing the mandatory "8 Day Before Election" report and the corrected "8 Day Before Election" report (65 weeks after the election), Baxter filed 4 'daily telegram' reports for contributions received in those last few days before the election and another mandatory "January Semi-Annual" Report which is supposed to cover everthing from the "8 Day Before Election" Report to the mid-December deadline for accepting contributions before the 2003 legislative session. He also filed a mandatory 2003 July Semi-Annual Report, 3 Special Session Reports, and the 2004 January Semi-Annual Report.

That's a total of 10 other reports filed over a year's time before he finally corrected his TRMPAC donation on Febuary 19, 2004 for the October 28, 2002 filing. For all of Baxter's other corrected reports in his political history, the longest it's taken to correct is six days.

That's a lot of time to notice a missing TRMPAC contribution (page 29) especially when the other TRMPAC contributions were around the same time...

October 1, 2002 TRMPAC 'in-kind' $2,373.00
October 3, 2002 TRMPAC 'missing donation' $5,000
October 4, 2002 TRMPAC 'reported donation' $10,000
October 18, 2002 TRMPAC 'reported donation' $1,000

The October 1, 4, and 18 donations can be found on page 29 of either report, right under the October 1, 2002 donation from Texans for Lawsuit Reform for $25,000. Funny how that's that same as one of the TRMPAC dates, though pages 28-31 are full of PAC donations from various dates.

He's normally on top of his game, and does all filing electronically. So I find it out of the ordinary for him personally, and for representatives in general.

So did Baxter Lie? Is the following report from Rational Rantings true?

It was not until February of 2004, after the TRMPAC scandal had been in the news for many months and grand jury investigations had gotten underway, that Baxter quietly filed a revised campaign ethics report with the TEC, including the TRMPAC donation which had been missing from his original report. Obviously, had he tried to keep it under wraps altogether, he would almost certainly have been indicted as soon as the false report had been discovered by the investigation.

As it was, the Texas Ethics Commission took up the matter in its May 7 meeting. According to the minutes of the meeting, the recommended fine was $10,000, but without explanation the fine was reduced to a mere $300. Why Baxter received a slap on the wrist (#30 about 3/4 of the way down, there was 1 dissenting vote from Commissioner Davenport) for what was clearly a very serious violation is not known, but then the Texas Ethics Commission has never been particularly aggressive on such matters.

We Report. You Decide. Vote Kelly White starting next Monday at early voting locations across Travis County.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at October 15, 2004 12:19 AM | TrackBack

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