Former U.S. House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, once one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress, was convicted today of illegally funneling campaign contributions to fellow Texas politicians in 2002.
After 19 hours of deliberation, the jury returned with guilty verdicts against DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison, although there would be a possibility of parole. DeLay will remain free until Dec. 20 when he is sentenced.
At the center of the charges was whether DeLay violated campaign contribution laws for his part in a single transaction involving a campaign money swap. A political action committee he founded, Texans for a Republican Majority, sent a $190,000 contribution to the Republican National Committee, which in turn, according to prosecutors, used the monies to help fund the 2002 campaigns of seven Texas Republican candidates supported by DeLay.
Under Texas state rules, corporate political donations to candidates are prohibited. Prosecutors said that corporate donations to the PAC were “laundered” by virtue of a special arrangement with the RNC in Washington. They claimed that the monies from the PAC were corporate funds, but funneled through the RNC to skirt campaign finance laws.
Travis County prosecutor Beverly Mathews charged that the exchange of monies ultimately had a much larger role in state and national politics. The monies helped get more Republicans elected to the Texas House, which allowed the GOP to push through a redistricting plan so that more Republicans could get elected to Congress, further cementing DeLay’s leadership position.
DeLay had been under investigation for years, and his political career had been badly damaged by his association with Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, causing him to resign in 2006. The lobbyist, a close friend of DeLay’s, was convicted on charges of tax evasion, mail fraud and conspiracy.
In August, federal officials notified DeLay that he would not be indicted in the Abramoff scandal, although their six year investigation yielded guilty pleas from Delay’s former chief of staff and one of his aides.
Delay has maintained a low profile in the Houston area as a Republican political consultant, although for a brief period, competed on the television show, Dancing with the Stars.