WASHINGTON, D.C. – By appealing today’s reversal of the conviction of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas is taking the step necessary to ensure that justice is done, Public Citizen said today.
Public Citizen and Texans for Public Justice provided then-Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle with much of the information on which DeLay’s conviction was based. The organizations compiled records of all the funds raised by DeLay’s state PAC (TRMPAC) and other committees, and provided evidence that DeLay did not raise enough non-corporate money to account for all the funds he laundered into the 2002 redistricting election.
The picture that emerged as the case unfolded was of a calculated operation designed specifically to undermine the will of voters.
“The hubris of DeLay was stunning,” said Craig Holman, Public Citizen’s government affairs lobbyist. “The scheme DeLay orchestrated served both to put the Texas state government under Republican control and, in turn, strengthen DeLay’s own leadership position in Washington D.C. DeLay shouldn’t get off scot-free.”
TRMPAC issued a check to the Republican National State Elections Committee (RNSEC), a nonfederal “soft money” component of the Republican National Committee, in the amount of $190,000. Approximately two weeks later, RNSEC issued checks to seven Texas candidates in the cumulative amount of $190,000. RNSEC deposited the check from TRMPAC into an account that included corporate money (“soft money” account) and funded the payments to the seven candidates out of a bank account that did not include corporate money (“hard money” account), thus trying to sidestep the ban on corporate contributions in Texas elections.
The money helped the GOP take control of the Texas House, enabling the party to push through a DeLay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Republicans to Congress in 2004, strengthening his political power.
Earle pressed the case and won an indictment for felony money laundering against DeLay in 2005. According to House Republican conference rules at the time, any person under a felony indictment could not serve in a leadership position in Congress.
DeLay attempted to delete that rule from the Republican rulebook in January 2005, but a press conference hosted by Public Citizen drew widespread attention to DeLay’s self-serving effort, and the Republican conference kept the rule on the books. DeLay resigned his position as House Majority Leader. Shortly afterward, DeLay left Congress.
In 2010, a jury convicted DeLay of felony money laundering, and he was sentenced to serve three years in prison. He avoided serving prison time while the case was on appeal. It took years for the appeal, partly because the DeLay legal team challenged the standing of a judge, who was a Democrat. That judge was removed from the case.
Today, the Texas Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Austin ruled 2-1 to reverse the conviction, saying that “the evidence in the case was legally insufficient to sustain DeLay’s conviction.”
“DeLay’s case crystalized a critical question for Texans: Do you want corporations to determine the policies of the state?” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “Since big business took control of the Legislature, we have ended up with some of the most regressive laws of the nation.”