As a key figure in the Texas Lottery Commission under Harriet Miers in 1997, former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes made an illegal campaign contribution to Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, the prosecutor who has brought charges against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
But WND can find no evidence Miers or the commission ever took any legal action against Barnes, reports WND columnist Jerome Corsi today.
At the time, Barnes was a political lobbyist under contract to GTECH, the Rhode Island firm running the lottery.
Under the contract, Barnes was receiving 4 percent of GTECH’s gross revenue in Texas, which brought him some $3 million a year, according to Corsi. Barnes obtained the GTECH contract in 1991, arguing that as a Democrat he could influence then-Gov. Ann Richards.
When Republican George W. Bush was elected Texas governor in 1995, Barnes persuaded GTECH that his influence over the governor’s office continued, since, according to his claim, he was responsible for pulling the strings needed to get Bush into the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.
In June 1996, Barnes and his wife, Melanie, each gave $1,000 to Earle’s re-election campaign, an issue that surfaced at the Lottery Commission, where Miers, Bush’s personal lawyer, had been appointed as chairman.
The problem was that GTECH’s contract with the state barred the company and its agents from making a gift, loan or contribution to “any Texas state officer” or legislator. Earle had statewide authority to enforce provisions of the Texas Lottery Act and a contract with the commission to carry out those responsibilities.
Miers commented on the controversy to reporters at the time, saying, “The issue has been brought to our attention and the general counsel has been asked to give the commission a response as to whether there is anything that needs to be done in this connection.”
Corsi points out records suggest Bush’s gubernatorial campaign had paid attorney Miers $19,000 to investigate Barnes’ claims that he helped Bush get into the National Guard.
Barnes surfaced again after the Lottery Commission fired its executive director, Larry Littwin, after Littwin questioned the GTECH contract, charging among other things that GTECH had violated the contract with the state by making political campaign contributions and paying favors to people affiliated with the lottery.
In a wrongful termination suit filed by Littwin, Barnes gave a deposition in which he repeated under oath his National Guard allegations. But the deposition was suppressed as part of a $300,000 settlement GTECH made to end the suit.
In February 1997, GTECH terminated Barnes’ contract – with a $23 million payout – after federal prosecutors mentioned him as a participant in a $500,000 kickback scheme in which he allegedly hired GTECH’s national sales manager, J. David Smith, as a consultant. But there was no evidence Smith did any work for the money.
Smith later was convicted, and the prosecutors claimed Barnes’ kickback payments were a “blueprint” for the kinds of illegal schemes Smith was advancing around the country.
In January 1998, the Lottery Commission, including Harriet Miers, voted to keep the GTECH contract, even though lower competitive bids were on the table.
Corsi also reported that while Miers presided over a major Texas law firm, it was forced to pay more than $30 million to settle claims it vouched for the reputation of two clients who cheated investors out of millions in an elaborate Ponzi scheme.
While there is no evidence Miers knew about the actions of partners who represented the clients until investors began filing lawsuits against Locke Liddell & Sapp LLC, she publicly defended the firm’s actions saying it never should have been named as a co-defendant in the case.