AUSTIN, Texas – Tom DeLay took part in a scheme to illegally channel corporate money into Texas legislative races in order to strengthen his power and influence, prosecutors said Monday in opening statements of the former U.S. House majority leader’s money laundering trial.
DeLay’s attorneys countered that no corporate money was given to Texas candidates and that the only thing the once-powerful but polarizing ex-lawmaker is guilty of is being a good politician.
Travis County Prosecutor Beverly Mathews said DeLay and two associates – Jim Ellis and John Colyandro – illegally funneled $190,000 in corporate money, which had been collected by a group DeLay started, through the Washington-based Republican National Committee to help elect GOP state legislative candidates in 2002. Under Texas law, corporate money cannot be directly used for political campaigns.
“The evidence will show you they took the corporate money they knew could not be given and came up with a scheme where that dirty money could be turned clean and given to candidates,” Mathews said.
DeLay, who has long denied any wrongdoing, is charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison.
During his opening statement, DeLay’s lead attorney repeatedly told jurors that no corporate money was ever given to Texas candidates.
Dick DeGuerin acknowledged DeLay’s political action committee sent $190,000 in corporate money to an arm of the Republican National Committee and that the national committee used money collected from individual donations to send $190,000 to seven Texas GOP candidates.
“It’s not the same money. No money was laundered,” DeGuerin said. As DeGuerin spoke, a television screen next to him displayed the words: “No corporate money went to candidates in Texas.”