Fox News is reporting a jury in Austin, Texas has convicted former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of illegally funneling corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002. His charges included money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The penalties could include from 5 years to life in prison.
As the Houston Chronicle explains, DeLay created a political action committee called Texans For A Republican Majority (TRMPAC). He was accused of conspiring with two aides to exchange $190,000 in corporate donations to TRMPAC for money donated by individuals to the Republican National Committee. Texas law states that corporate “soft money” cannot be used in candidate campaigns.
DeLay was once known as “The Hammer,” and was one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress. House GOP rules forced him to step down as Majority Leader after he was indicted by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle in 2005. He resigned his seat during the 2006 elections. A federal probe into his connections with notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff ended in 2010 without bringing any charges. According to the Associated Press, he has been running a consulting firm in the Houston area recently. His last public appearance was on “Dancing With The Stars” in 2009.
DeLay responded to his indictment by labeling District Attorney Ronnie Earle a “partisan zealot.” Earle had been criticized by for making political indictments in the past. He resigned as Travis County D.A. in 2007, and ran for Lieutenant Governor of Texas this year, but was defeated in the Democrat primary. His case against DeLay held up under 19 hours of jury deliberation, resulting in tonight’s convictions.
DeLay’s attorneys argued there was nothing illegal about the money swap, and he had little direct involvement in the operation of TRMPAC. He is currently out on bail, awaiting a sentencing hearing that has been tentatively scheduled for December 20.