Tom DeLay is a master of the art of politics.
As House Majority Whip and then Majority Leader, he led the Republicans in succesfully advancing the conservative agenda. At the same time, he helped the Republican Party in his home state of Texas defeat the Democrats at the state level.
For all his policitical accomplishments, DeLay was left with a form of tri-partisanship. He got disdain from Democrats, Republicans, and the purportedly unbiased legal system.
The Texas justice system convicted him on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to launder money — despite evidence to the contrary — and sentenced him to three years in jail and 10 years probation on Monday. DeLay, out on bond, is appealing the conviction and sentencing.
In an exclusive interview with HUMAN EVENTS on Wednesday evening, DeLay gave his perspective on his conviction, the sentence, and the events that led up to both.
“What this is, is the criminalization of politics. It’s no longer good enough to defeat elected officials. You have to destroy them. Put them in jail. Destroy their families. Put them in the grave, and dance all over it,” said DeLay.
Is DeLay scared of going to prison?
“If I end up in jail, it won’t be pleasant. I just spent three hours in jail and I didn’t like it,” said the resolute and even-toned DeLay. “But I can handle it.”
However, many lawyers and legal experts do not believe that DeLay will end up serving time in jail because his conviction will be overturned on appeal. DeLay will next appeal the conviction to the Third Court of Appeals in Austin (which has a Republican majority), and if necessary, to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (all Republican).
Judge Pat Priest, who sentenced DeLay, “acknowledged from the bench that appeals courts might not take the same view,” according to the Dallas Morning News.
Even a liberal lawyer who works in campaign finance law in San Francisco said she believes DeLay’s conviction will be overturned. “I hate Tom DeLay’s guts and everything he stands for,” she said. But, she added, the “legal system did him a disservice.”
DeLay, though, was less optimistic about the appeals process. “I was told by my lawyers and everyone who looked at this that I would not be found guilty. So I don’t listen to them anymore,” he said.
To Democrats, the brash and brazen DeLay was a constant source of frustration that they wanted to eviscerate because he was so successful in the political arena, particularly on pro-life causes and other issues dear to social conservatives.
To some conservatives, DeLay and some of his dastardly and conniving associates who parlayed their associations with him to illicitly enrich themselves behind his back, symbolized corruption in politics. They got tagged by the anti-Washington rhetoric, and were viewed as succumbing to the temptations and entrapments of power.
In the legal system symbolized by a blind Lady Justice that represents impartiality, these political opinions of DeLay and his ex-staffers are not supposed to matter, nor influence the legal proceedings.
But in DeLay’s case, politics entered into the courtroom.
“This is all about politics; it’s not about the law,” DeLay said. “These were political indictments, political trials.”
From DeLay’s point of view, the liberals started to attempt to criminalize politics in 1995 when current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and then Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Committee (DCCC) Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), announced publicly that they were going to “take [him] out.”
Then in 2000, the DCCC filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit against him, linking his political fundraising activities to that of the mafia.
For the rest of his political career, DeLay faced many frivolous ethics charges, which were thrown out of court and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and time.
DeLay was once even charged with “conspiring to defeat Democrats.” He quipped that, “I should have plead guilty to that.”
The ethics charges and lawsuits intensified once he was elected Republican Majority Leader after the 2002 midterm elections.
DeLay’s opponents, particularly the unscrupulous and rogue District Attorney Ronnie Earle, saw an opportunity to indict DeLay in 2005 after the Republicans took over the Texas statehouse. The Republicans attempted a redistricting plan through the new GOP legislature. DeLay insists that the redistricting effort was done “so the people of Texas could be represented by their political values, not to increase my power.”
The indictment in Texas in 2005 forced him to step down from his leadership position because of a House rule in the House that leaders have to temporarily step aside if indicted. DeLay said the Texas case was just a way for the national liberal coordinated effort to “get rid of me.”
“The Biggest Mistake Of My Life”
Earle is a partisan, liberal ideologue who has repeatedly abused the law to attempt to prosecute his Republican and Democratic enemies. Earle had to take the case against DeLay to a grand jury three times, in order to charge DeLay with laws that did not exist in Texas.
“The biggest mistake of my life was talking to Ronnie Earle,” DeLay said. “My lawyers said to interview with him or they will indict you … We spoke for about one and a half hours, and they pulled out two phrases [from that conversation] that made it seem like you can construe beforehand that the transaction was taking place.”
DeLay was indicted by liberal Travis County District Attorney Earle in 2005, but was forced to wait five long years to have his case heard in court. DeLay could not get his day in court because the judge did not sever DeLay from two co-defendants. His co-defendants appealed the initial indictment on the grounds that Democrats put pressure on these judges, who are elected in Texas.
Finally in court, DeLay’s trial lasted nine days. Despite the length of the trial and the prosecution putting 33 witnesses on againt him, DeLay says that “not one evidence of wrongdoing was presented.” Nevertheless, DeLay was convicted of money laundering and conspiracy to money launder. Many, including DeLay, were shocked by the verdict.
There seems to be no legal precedent for using criminal laws to prosecute alleged campaign finance violations. Even the liberal Washington Post newspaper published an editorial that denounced DeLay’s concivtion.
The $190,000 Political Donation Considered “Money Laundering”
DeLay said that his Political Action Committee in Texas (TRMPAC) “legally raised corporate funds to pay for administrative services, so they were not proceeds of criminal activities.” The minimum standard that needs to be met in a classic money laundering case is for the accused to receive proceeds from the criminal acts, and there is ample evidence to seemingly indicate that those standards did not even come close to being met in this case.
TRMPAC raised more corporate funds than it could use, so it did a money swap, a political activity in which both Democrats and Republicans routinely engaged.
TRMPAC sent $190,000 to the Republican National Committee (RNC). Next, the RNC sent $190,000 to seven Republican candidates in Texas.
Texas Democrat Martin Frost, the former Charmian of the Democratic Campaign Committee (DCCC) did the same in the Democratic political committees. In fact, DeLay said, “Frost had created a PAC called Lone Star Fund and we set up TRMPAC using Lone Star Fund’s papers to be like them. In one year, [Frost’s PAC] sent $76,000 to DNC, and the DNC sent $76,000 to the Democrat Party of Texas.”
DeLay said that he had a Texas State Senator write to Ronnie Earle that Martin Frost had done the exact political money swap, but “Earle dismissed it.”
As for the case of the $190,000 exchange, DeLay insists that it was open and legal. “The two monies are never commingled, they are never contaminated…we proved all that in the trial,” said DeLay.
As for the second charge of conspiracy to money launder, DeLay says that there was no evidence presented that linked him to a part of any conspiracy.
“People oversaw my PAC to make sure my name was used properly … I was Majority Whip, going to war, and everything else, I paid no attention to it,” DeLay said. “And every step of the way, [the transactions] were cleared by lawyers. The RNC thought it was legal or they would not have done it.”
In essence, if DeLay and his TRMPAC’s administrators thought the transactions in question were legal, how could there be a conspiracy between two minds to commit an illicit act?
“My point to the judge was this is commonly done. This is selective prosecution. The DNC and the RNC did money swaps, and no one challenged them or reported them to the Federal Election Commission. So all the lawyers believed it was legal,” DeLay said.
At trial, the judge said that no one is absolved based on what their lawyers tell them is legal. DeLay responded, “So why do we hire them?”
Travis County, Texas: Home Court Advantage For Liberals
DeLay was tried and convicted in liberal Travis County, Texas, the county where the liberal city of Austin is located.
“Travis County is like San Francisco — it’s an island of liberalism,” said DeLay.
“We did a poll in Travis County, I had name ID like Barack Obama. I had 90% name ID, 60% of those who knew me hated me,” DeLay said. “And the jury foreman [was] a Greenpeace activist.”
DeLay said the prosecution’s case was all about giving the Austin jury the false perception that he was a corrupt politician. And the liberal jury bought the prosecution’s case.
DeLay: Mark Levin Had My Back
“The silence of the conservative media disappointed me the most”
DeLay said that after he was indicted in 2005, “conservatives ran for the hills.” The disloyalty after all his years of fighting for conservative principles “is pretty amazing. I don’t know why.”
“The silence of the conservative media disappointed me the most,” added DeLay.
DeLay feels that the Left’s orchestrated campaign against him influenced the legal proceedings.
“I hesitate to call it a conspiracy, but it was a sophisticated, well-funded coordination that made sure the media was hounding me at the right time when judges were about to make decisions, DeLay said. “None [of these people were] talking about the law, but all talking about how bad Tom DeLay is.”
“I was standing up and feeling alone a lot of the time to fight this very sophisticated effort,” DeLay said. “The only real friend I have [in the conservative media] is Mark Levin, who was one of the few who [had my back].”
DeLay also noted that, on the Left, even “Chris Matthews thinks [these charges] are a crock.”
DeLay warns new Republicans in D.C. and the current GOP establishment about the fierce coordination between organizations on the Left and the media that enable them. This was evident when the Left and the media orchestrated to give then-candidate Barack Obama favorable coverage while orchestrating disparagement of Sarah Palin in 2008.
The Left’s coordinated effort reared its ugly head in the wake of the horrific assassination attempt of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) last weekend. The mainstream media and the liberals immediately implicated conservatives and Tea Parties in the mass shooting, despite lacking a scintilla of evidence.
And this coordination between the Left and the media is even more blatant when they coddle and make excuses for and call for restraint when anybody with a Muslim background commits an act of terror at home or abroad.
DeLay counsels the current GOP establishment to “stay strong for what you believe in no matter what happens. If something happens, first find out if it is real or not. If it is not real, stand up and fight and circle the wagons and fight for what they believe in.”
He has since studied the sophisticated way in which the Left coordinates with the media. “They have a communication operation where they can put together documentaries at the snap of fingers. We don’t have anything like that. Republicans still don’t get it. Republicans still think if you raise enough money, and put TV ads up, you’re gonna win, and that’s just a crock.”
As proof, DeLay cites how such a coordinated effort can turn fiction into fact. For instance, he says he has not seen the feature film movie “Casino Jack.” “I’ve seen clips, and it is fiction,” he says.
DeLay’s own lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, initially had a false impression of DeLay from what he contends were made-up stories and reports in the mainstream media.
“My own lawyer, a liberal Democrat, hated me before he accepted my case,” DeLay said. “He has said many times, ‘You are not the guy I read about in the papers.’”
The endless trials and what he believes have been media slanders have taken a toll on DeLay’s family. His wife has had serious health problems, including bouts with depression.
And despite the prosecutors’ false narrative that Delay illicitly profited from criminal activity, he has financial problems.
“I don’t have any money. I was a pest control operator when I went into office. And I didn’t use my position for any financial gain. If I didn’t have friends who hired me for consulting, I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills,” DeLay said.
“I am able to pay my bills, but can’t do more than pay my bills. I’m not whining, but it’s difficult to make a living because no one wants to hire someone associated with all of this,” he says.
Yet, DeLay sees two silver linings in his current trials and tribulations.
First, DeLay says his experiences have opened the eyes of many on how dangerous the “criminalization of politics” can be, which DeLay equates to something that comes out of the “Communist Manifesto” that calls for “enemies to be destroyed.”
DeLay says that if this political atmosphere “is allowed to continue, I can’t tell you the number of people who want to run for Congress who won’t.” He says that many people “tell me they won’t run because of what has happened to me they don’t want to put their families through this. And elected officials are scared to stand up for what they believe in because they are afraid they’ll get their heads knocked off.”
“It has a serious effect on our system and our republic,” added DeLay.
Most importantly, his legal and political travails have reaffirmed DeLay’s faith.
“Emotionally, I’m fine. I’m strong, and I get my strength and joy from my faith. And I pray to Jesus every day, and He holds my hand,” he says in a calm tone.
DeLay has not spoken to the rogue and unscrupulous District Attorney Earle, who has since retired, since the interview that he called the “biggest mistake of my life.” When asked what he would say to Earle if they ever had a chance encounter at a restaurant or a bar, DeLay said he would not say one word to him.
“I would pray for him,” DeLay said. “I’m instructed to pray for your enemies.”