The corruption trial of former U.S. House majority leader Tom DeLay is getting underway today in Austin, Texas at the Travis County Justice Complex. DeLay was charged in 2005 with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted he could face life in prison, plus fines.
At the center of the matter, is whether DeLay violated campaign contribution laws for his part in a single transaction involving campaign funds. A political action committee he founded, Texans for a Republican Majority, sent a $190,000 contribution to the Republican National Committee, which in turn used the monies to fund the 2002 campaigns of seven Texas Republican candidates supported by DeLay.
Under Texas state rules, corporate political donations to candidates are prohibited. Prosecutors claim that corporate donations to the PAC were “laundered” by virtue of a special arrangement with the RNC in Washington. Monies were provided by the PAC to the RNC, which in turn gave them to the Texas candidates as non-corporate funds, presumably to skirt campaign finance rules.
Travis County prosecutor Beverly Mathews charged that the exchange of monies had a much larger role in state politics: a redistricting plan that would help elect more Republicans to Congress and thus help cement DeLay’s leadership position.
DeLay resigned from Congress in 2006 after an aide was implicated in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal.