Thursday, September 08, 2005
1 hour, 27 minutes ago
A Texas grand jury has indicted a political organization formed by Tom DeLay, accusing it of taking illegal corporate money as the House majority leader helped Republicans win control of the Texas Legislature and keep Congress in GOP hands.
DeLay, R-Texas, was not indicted by a Travis County grand jury in the charges made public Thursday, although three of his political associates were charged earlier. District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, said he had no jurisdiction over DeLay's personal conduct.
A prominent Texas business group also was charged, in what Earle called an attempt to funnel "massive amounts of secret corporate wealth" into Texas campaigns.
State law prohibits use of corporate contributions to advocate election or defeat of state candidates.
Once DeLay helped Republicans win control of the state Legislature in 2002, the majority leader engineered a Republican redistricting plan that gave the state's U.S. House delegation a 21-11 majority in the current Congress. The effort helped Republicans increase their House margin by five seats this year.
Kevin Madden, DeLay's spokesman, said the majority leader only played a limited role in the political organization, Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee — also known as TRMPAC. He served on the organization's advisory board and appeared at fundraising events, Madden said.
The indictments also did not charge individuals in the Texas Association of Business with violating state law.
A complaint filed last year with the House ethics committee alleged that DeLay's activities with TRMPAC violated House rules, but the panel deferred action and has done nothing since.
The indictments allege that the business group and the political committee worked together in a complicated scheme to circumvent the election code.
The charge against Texans for a Republican Majority alleges the committee illegally accepted a political contribution of $100,000 from the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care and $20,000 from AT&T.
Four indictments against the Texas Association of Business include charges of unlawful political advertising, unlawful contributions to a political committee and unlawful expenditures such as those to a graphics company and political candidates.
The statewide business group, which is influential at the Texas Capitol, spent about $1.7 million in corporate money for mailings in 2002. The group said it was trying to educate voters on issues, which is legal, not advocate the election or defeat of any candidates.
TAB attorney Roy Minton said the group acted under protections of the First Amendment, which "gives individuals and their businesses the absolute right to inform the public of the conduct of our elected officials and the conduct of candidates for public office."
The grand jury last fall indicted three officials with Texans for a Republican Majority. John Colyandro of Austin and Jim Ellis of Washington, D.C., each were accused of one count of money laundering. Colyandro also faces 13 counts of unlawful acceptance of a corporate political contribution.
Washington fundraiser Warren Robold was indicted on charges of accepting or making corporate donations.
All are now awaiting trial.