Friday, November 10, 2006

Lobbyists threaten retribution to Reps who don't vote for Speaker Craddick

Democrat alleges impropriety in speaker's race

Nov. 10, 2006

Associated Press
Copyright 2006

AUSTIN - A state representative says lobbyists are pressuring lawmakers to support Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick for another term and threatening retribution if they don't.

Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Houston Democrat, has asked the Texas Ethics Commission to determine whether those actions violate a law that prevents people who want to be speaker from using bribery to win the post.

A spokesman for Craddick, who presides over the House, called the claims "completely false."

Every two years, the 150-member chamber selects a speaker to preside over the House. Historically, speakers are not forced out unless a new political party wins a majority of seats.

The GOP lost six seats in the chamber this year but still holds an 81-69 majority.

Craddick, R-Midland, has said he has enough pledges of support from lawmakers to seal another term.

But some Democrats - who often complain that Craddick's leadership style is too authoritarian - have speculated that their new numbers and support from enough unhappy Republicans could be enough to oust Craddick in favor of a more moderate Republican.

It takes at least 76 votes to elect a speaker. Craddick claims to have the support of 109 members, but those pledges are not binding.

In her letter seeking an opinion from the ethics commission, Farrar said lobbyists have called House lawmakers vowing that the speaker candidate will give sought-after assignments during the next session and will see to it that his loyalists have "the right support" in the next election cycle.

Farrar later identified the unnamed "speaker candidate" as Craddick.

Lawmakers also are being told "we won't forget it" and "we can make sure that you remember that you made a mistake," Farrar said.

Democratic Rep.-elect Eddie Lucio III, who won his first election to the House Tuesday, said he has pledged his support to Craddick and has not received such calls.

"But I'm not surprised. It's part of the politics in any speakers race," he said. "If you get on the bad side ... and don't prevail, there's going to be a little retaliation."

Farrar asked the commission if the comments are considered illegal legislative bribery.

"Do I have any duty to report this conduct to the appropriate authorities, including the district attorney with jurisdiction over these matters?" Farrar asked in her letter.

The ethics commission is not likely to issue an opinion until their next meeting, which is on Nov. 27.

Craddick is scheduled to speak to a closed-door meeting of House Republicans this weekend.

© 2006 The Associated Press: