DeLayed: Questerra charges dropped

Ronnie Earle is the Travis County, Texas, prosecutor who persuaded a grand jury to indict former House majority leader Tom DeLay September 28 for illegal fundraising activities. A year ago, he also snared a company once based in Charlottesville.

Questerra, which markets state-of-the-art mapping technology, had locals lined up for jobs when it opened its doors in the Omni in 2001.

But before its third birthday, the MeadWestvaco subsidiary was indicted along with seven other corporations for illegally contributing to Texans for a Republican Majority, a DeLay PAC devoted to redistricting Texas to increase its Republican representation in Congress.

Questerra, no longer listed in the local phone book, is "kind of a virtual company, with people scattered all over," says Alison von Puschendorf, media relations manager for MeadWestvaco. Questerra's headquarters now are in Aliso Viejo, California.

Tim Milovich was Questerra CEO and president in May and August 2002, when the fledgling company wrote two $25,000 checks to TRMPAC.

It's illegal for corporations to contribute to Texas legislative candidates, so checks to TRMPAC were sent to the Republican National Committee, which allegedly laundered the money and shipped it back to Texas House candidates.

The criminal complaint against Questerra was dismissed in April.

"As part of the agreement, we agreed to donate [$50,000] to the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs and that we'd no longer employ the highest managerial agent responsible for the donation," says von Puschendorf.

Milovich is not named in the agreement.

Questerra's settlement of the charges was no doubt quicker and quieter than DeLay's will be. The feisty Texan, who ruled the House of Representatives for a more than a decade until he resigned his majority leadership position last week, calls Ronnie Earle a "partisan fanatic" and vows to fight the charges. DeLay was indicted on two more counts October 3.

Former Questerra president and CEO Tim Milovich had ties to Texas. Charges against the company, once headquartered in Charlottesville, were settled in April.