By Jonathan E. Kaplan - 10/26/05 12:00 AM EDT
Judge C.W. “Bud” Duncan Jr., who will decide whether the judge hearing the case against former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) can deliver an impartial ruling despite donating to several Democrats, has contributed to past campaigns of Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and a Democratic state legislator, according to data compiled by Texans for Public Justice (TPJ).
The records show that Duncan made three contributions totaling $500 between 1995 and 2000 to Cornyn, who was elected to the Senate in 2002 after serving as Texas’s attorney general and a state Supreme Court justice.
Duncan also gave $200 to Democratic state Rep. Bob Armstrong in 1998.
Duncan will hear arguments Tuesday. DeLay and two political operatives were indicted on charges of money laundering and conspiracy stemming from his alleged role in funneling $190,000 of corporate money into the 2002 state election. Texas election law bars the use of corporate money to elect candidates.
The charges against DeLay stem from a complaint by TPJ, an Austin-based watchdog group that tracks campaign donations in Texas.
Since 1989, Duncan has not donated to federal candidates. Records did not show whether he gave before 1989.
During DeLay’s arraignment Friday, his lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, argued that Judge Bob Perkins, who was originally slated to preside over DeLay’s trial, was biased because he has given 34 political donations totaling $5,185 to Democratic candidates and causes. Perkins referred the motion to the regional administrative judge, B.B. Schraub, who assigned the case to Duncan on Monday.
Andrew Wheat, TPJ’s researcher, said the bigger conflict in the Texas judicial system stems from the tendency for lawyers and law firms to cut checks to judges’ campaigns and then appear before their courts.
“There’s not a respectable judge who is going to buy this argument because there are far greater conflicts,” Wheat said.
Elected as a Democrat, Duncan, 81, retired as a judge in 1988 after serving on the bench for 10 years. He lives in Killeen, Texas, near Waco.
Duncan did not return a call seeking comment.
In Duncan’s time on the bench, he ruled on cases ranging from petty crime to corporate disputes. In 1984, he sentenced a college horticulture student to five years in prison — five years fewer than the maximum sentence — for growing $650,000 worth of marijuana in a state-of-the-art, football-field-size greenhouse, according to news reports.