Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) is guilty of money laundering, according to a Texas jury. It’s been a Long Time Coming. (The wheels of justice rotate slowly.) Given that the illegal contributions occurred in 2002, it’s probably worthwhile providing a little backstory.

Note: it’s been illegal in Texas since 1903 for corporations to give money to candidates directly or indirectly. [Aside: one assumes this was set-aside in the recent US Supreme Court ruling, BIANAL.]

In April 2005, the Washington Post reported that legal experts believed that privately paid trips abroad for DeLay and family members meant he is in “serious danger of being declared in violation of House ethics rules.”

In June 2005, Texas District Judge Joe Hart (Austin) ruled that a political action committee (PAC) established by DeLay was guilty of failing to report $600,000 in contributions, primarily from corporations. Five Democrats who lost elections in 2002 had filed suit against the PAC, Texans for a Republican Majority (TRM-PAC). The PAC helped Republicans gain control over the legislature for the first time since the Civil War. DeLay was not a party to this suit; however, his actions related to TRM-PAC have been under investigation by the Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle (Austin-D) since January 2003.

In August 2005, Federal Election Commission audit found that Americans for a Republican Majority – DeLay’s “premier” political action committee, “used more unregulated ‘soft’ money than was allowed for fund-raising and get-out-the-vote activities” in the 2002 election.

In September 2005, DeLay was indicted by a Texas grand jury, becoming the first House leader indicted in a century and the highest ranking member to face criminal charges. The charge was felony criminal conspiracy involving illegal corporate political donations. He stepped down as Majority Leader, as required by House rules.

In October 2005, DeLay was indicted on two additional charges. One count was conspiracy to commit money-laundering, charging that DeLay and his associates “did knowingly, conduct, supervise, and facilitate” the transfer from Texas to Washington DC back to Texas, a violation of the state’s money-laundering laws.

In November 2005, former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon — Jack Abramoff’s partner — pled guilty to corruption charges.

The decision of former Tom DeLay aide Michael Scanlon (35) to plead guilty in a corruption case (which includes his paying $19 million in restitution) threatens to expose the nasty underbelly of money and politics. The politics of quid-pro-quo practiced by Scanlon and his partner Jack Abramoff , at least on the surface, appears to be the standard operating procedure of today’s crop of Republican leaders and lobbyists (referenced by the area of Washington where most have offices, K Street).

In December 2005, the Washington Post reported on the growing web between DeLay and convicted lobbyist Abramoff, who pled guilty in January 2006 to mail fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy.

April 2006, DeLay announced he would not run for re-election and would leave Congress before the November election.

In October 2008, the Texas Association of Business pleaded guilty to an unlawful direct campaign expenditure, “six years after helping elect a slate of Republican lawmakers to the Texas Legislature.”

January 2009, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle retired.

In August 2010, the Department of Justice ended its investigation of DeLay’s ties to Abramoff without bringing any charges.

KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst
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