Top Republican Donor Runs Into PAC Trouble

February 24, 2012

By Nicholas Confessore
The Caucus Blog New York Times

A Texas political action committee controlled by the nation’s pre-eminent Republican donor asked more than a dozen state lawmakers to return campaign contributions they received from the PAC last year, acknowledging that the contributions had violated state law.

The PAC, known as WCS-Texas Solutions, gave $65,000 to 18 Republican and Democratic candidates in 2011. But all of that money came from a single donor: Harold C. Simmons, a wealthy Texas businessman who is one of the top donors to Gov. Rick Perry and has emerged as the top donor to Republican "super PACs" in the presidential race this year.

Texas law requires that a state PAC have at least 10 donors, a provision designed to ensure that such committees are not used as shell organizations for donors wishing to hide their identities. Texans for Public Justice, a watchdog organization, filed a complaint on Thursday with the Texas Ethics Commission alleging that the contributions by WCS-Texas Solutions PAC violated that rule. Waste Control Specialists is a Simmons-owned company that stores radioactive and other hazardous waste.

The PAC quickly acknowledged the violation and said it would ask the lawmakers to return the donations while it brought itself into compliance with the law.

"The PAC did commit a violation by exceeding the contribution amount allowable prior to securing 10 contributing members," said William J. Lindquist, the group’s treasurer and a senior executive at one of Mr. Simmons’s other companies, Valhi Inc. "As the treasurer of the PAC, that oversight was my responsibility. We are working with the Ethics Commission now to get into full compliance."

The decision was reported on Friday by The Texas Tribune and The Dallas Morning News.

Craig McDonald, the director of Texans for Public Justice, said in a statement, “quot;We can only pray Simmons is exercising more caution in handling his nuclear waste than he is handling campaign contributions."