WASHINGTON – A Texas grand jury Tuesday indicted three political fund-raisers with ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, for allegedly funneling illegal corporate campaign funds to Republican candidates for state office.
DeLay, one of Congress’ most powerful members, was not charged and called the indictments politically motivated. But the House’s No. 2 leader, whose bare-knuckle political style has earned him the nickname “The Hammer,” is still the subject of a House Ethics Committee complaint accusing him of improperly involving a federal agency in a Texas partisan matter, soliciting campaign contributions in return for legislative favors, and violating campaign finance laws.
DeLay said he questioned the timing of the indictments, announced by the Travis County district attorney, a Democrat, just weeks before congressional elections.
“This has been an investigation that has been under way for nearly two years, and 40 days before the election they’ve suddenly taken action,” he said. “You do the political math.”
The three indicted fund-raisers – involved with a fund-raising committee associated with DeLay – are accused of improperly using corporate contributions to help elect a Republican majority to the Texas Legislature in 2002, the first time since Reconstruction that the GOP held the majority.
Texas law bars corporate contributions to candidates for state office.
The Republican majority helped DeLay orchestrate a controversial redrawing of congressional district lines, which was expected to tilt Texas’ delegation to the U.S. House from a slim Democratic majority to firm Republican control after this fall’s elections. That would, in turn, strengthen GOP control of the chamber.
Freshman Rep. Chris Bell, D-Texas, who lost his primary this year in a newly redrawn district, filed a 187-page complaint with the House Ethics Committee in June, accusing DeLay of using his office to try to track down the Democrats who fled the state and of funneling $190,000 in corporate contributions to Texas lawmakers.
The Ethics Committee has been meeting to decide whether to open a formal investigation but reportedly is deadlocked – along party lines – on how to proceed.
Bell said Tuesday that the indictments left the committee “no option but to move forward with a full investigation” of DeLay.
DeLay said that he had no involvement in the day-to-day operations of Texans for a Republican Majority, the political fund-raising committee named in the indictment, and that he knew of no wrongdoing.