Tom DeLay campaign finance trial

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Tom DeLay, a Republican U.S. Representative from Texas from 1979–83, and from 1985–2006 and the House Majority Leader from 2003–05, was convicted in 2010 of money laundering and conspiracy charges related to illegal campaign finance activities aimed at helping Republican candidates for Texas state office in the 2002 elections. In 2013, a Texas Court of Appeals panel acquitted DeLay when it overturned his conviction. This decision was affirmed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on October 1, 2014. DeLay had three years from that date, i.e. until October 1, 2017, to file any lawsuits for wrongful action.


Ronnie Earle, the Democratic then-District Attorney of Travis County (which includes the state capital of Austin), sought the indictment of Tom DeLay in 2005. After a first grand jury declined to indict DeLay, Earle stated that new evidence had become available. A second grand jury quickly issued an indictment of Delay for one count of criminal conspiracy on September 28, 2005. On October 3, a third grand jury indicted DeLay for the more serious offense of money laundering. [1]

An arrest warrant was issued on October 19, and DeLay turned himself in the next day to the Harris County Sheriff's Office in Houston. [2] In accordance with House Republican Conference rules, DeLay temporarily resigned from his position as House Majority Leader. On January 7, 2006, after pressure from fellow Republicans, he announced that he would not seek to return to the post. On June 9, 2006, DeLay resigned from Congress. [3]

After two judges were recused from the case, the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court assigned Senior District Judge Pat Priest, a Democrat, of San Antonio to preside over the case. [4] DeLay moved to dismiss all charges. Judge Priest dismissed one count of the indictment alleging conspiracy to violate election law but allowed the other, more serious charges of money laundering and conspiracy to engage in money laundering to proceed. In November 2010, DeLay was found guilty by a Travis County jury on both counts. [5] In September 2013, a Texas appeals court, composed of two Republicans and a dissenting Democrat, overturned DeLay's conviction. In the opinion of the court, the state's evidence was legally insufficient to sustain DeLay's convictions so the court reversed the judgments of the trial court and rendered judgments of acquittal. The current DA's office said it would appeal the decision to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which it later did. [6] [7] The all-Republican Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to review the case and handed down an 8–1 decision affirming the lower courts' dismissal October 1, 2014. [8]


In the reapportionment following the 1990 Census, Texas Democrats drew what Republican political analyst Michael Barone argued was the most effective partisan gerrymander in the country. The Democrats won 70 percent of the Texas congressional seats in 1992, the first year in which the new districts were in effect, while taking half of the total number of votes cast for Congress statewide. After the 2000 census, Republicans sought to redraw the district lines to support a Republican majority in the congressional delegation while Democrats desired to retain a plan similar to the existing lines. The two parties reached an impasse in the Texas Legislature, where Republicans controlled the Senate and Democrats controlled the House. As a result the new district lines were drawn by a three judge federal court panel that made as few changes as possible while adding the two new seats.[ citation needed ]

In 2001 the Texas Legislative Redistricting Board (a panel composed of the state's Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller of Public Accounts, Speaker of the state House, Attorney General, and Land Commissioner) redrew state legislative districts in accordance with the Census results. The new map that was adopted by the Republican-dominated board gave the Republicans an edge in winning the Texas House of Representatives, still controlled at that time by the Democrats. During the 2002 elections under these new maps, DeLay aggressively raised money for Republican candidates under Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC). In October 2002, TRMPAC made contributions, through several channels, to Nelson Balido of San Antonio ($2,000), Byron Cook of Corsicana ($2,000), Wayne Christian of Center ($2,000), Rick Green of Dripping Springs ($2,000), and Eddie Shauberger of Liberty ($2,000), among others. [9]

The GOP victories in 2002 resulted in their control of the Texas House in addition to the Senate. As a result, the Texas Legislature was called into session in 2003 to establish a controversial mid-decade redistricting plan that favored Republicans. A number of Democrats (the "Killer Ds", in the state House, and "Texas Eleven" in the state Senate) left the state and went to Oklahoma and later New Mexico to deny a quorum for voting. Helen Giddings, the recognized negotiator, was arrested in May 2003, but later the arrest was called a mistake. The political police dragnet was at taxpayer expense. [10] Texas House Speaker Craddick apologized to Giddings, then ordered the Sergeant at Arms to incarcerate Giddings in the state capital building.[ citation needed ]

On May 26, 2005, a Texas judge ruled that a committee formed by DeLay had violated state law by not disclosing over $600,000 worth of fundraising money, mostly from the credit card industry, including $25,000 from Sears, Roebuck & Co., [11] and $50,000 from Diversified Collections Services of San Leandro. [12]

Some of the money was spent on manning phone banks and posting wanted posters on Federal Highways calling for the arrest of Democratic legislators with an 800 number to the Texas Department of Public Safety to call if seen after the Democratic caucus left for Oklahoma in order to prevent the redistricting legislation from passing. The Federal Highway Administration offered to cooperate in arresting the Democrats, forcing the Democrats to travel to Oklahoma by plane instead of by automobile. Five Texas congressional seats changed hands from Democrats to Republicans during the 2004 election, largely due to the new redistricting. On October 6, 2004, the House Ethics Committee unanimously admonished DeLay on two counts. The first count stated that DeLay "created the appearance that donors were being provided with special access to Representative DeLay regarding the then-pending energy legislation." The second count alleged DeLay had "used federal resources in a political issue" by asking the Federal Aviation Administration and Justice Department to help track Texas legislators during the battle over Texas redistricting. [13] At the time of the latter admonishment, the House Ethics committee deferred action on another count related to fundraising while that matter was subject to state criminal action. That state investigation eventually led to the felony indictment on September 28, 2005. [ citation needed ]

In 2005, the Federal Elections Commission audited DeLay's national political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC). The FEC found that ARMPAC had failed to report $322,306 in debts owed to vendors, and that it had incorrectly paid for some committee expenses using funds from an account designated for non-federal elections. The FEC also found that ARMPAC had misstated the balances of its receipts and ending cash-on-hand for 2001, and of its receipts, disbursements, and beginning and ending cash-on-hand for 2002. ARMPAC corrected the omission of the debts in amended reports, and is reviewing the portion of the audit dealing with incorrect payment for expenses. [14]

DeLay asserted that Earle was "a rogue district attorney" engaged in "blatant political partisanship". Earle retired in December 2007 and was succeeded by Rosemary Lehmberg, whom he mentored. [15]

Grand jury indictments

Indictments of associates

On September 13, 2005, a federal grand jury indicted ARMPAC's executive director Jim Ellis and TRMPAC's former executive director John Colyandro, who already faced charges of money laundering in the case, as well as 13 counts of unlawful acceptance of a corporate political contribution. The charges were brought before the grand jury by Earle. Joe Turner, who represented Colyandro, stated he did not want a jury trial in Austin, because "DeLay and Republicans are hated [there]".[ citation needed ] The indictment charged that DeLay, Colyandro and Ellis conspired to pass corporate contributions to candidates for the Texas legislature in violation of Texas campaign finance law. Several corporations (such as Diversified Collection Services and Sears Roebuck) allegedly made contributions to TRMPAC. The indictment charged that TRMPAC then sent a check for $190,000 to the Republican National Committee, made payable to "RNSEC" (the Republican National State Elections Committee), along with a list of state-level Republican candidates who should receive the money. According to the indictment, the Republican candidates in Texas did receive the money so designated. [28]

A Travis County grand jury issued the indictment. The third grand jury's foreman, William Gibson, stated that there were "stacks and stacks" [of evidence] and that "[A]s far as we're concerned, they presented us enough evidence and witnesses that we felt we were on the right track. I would not have put my name on that grand-jury indictment unless I felt we had ample probable cause." [29] Gibson, however, later reportedly told KLBJ Radio in an interview that his decision to indict DeLay was based on news stories that the Texas Association of Business mailings against candidate James Spencer, a personal friend of Gibson, were coordinated with TRMPAC.[ citation needed ]

Earle's investigation of DeLay was the subject of a documentary, The Big Buy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress . [30] The filmmakers went to cover the 2003 Texas redistricting battle but eventually focused primarily on the grand jury investigation. Earle cooperated with the documentarians, but DeLay refused to meet with them. [31] [32] [33]

DeLay's response to the indictments

DeLay blasted the charges as a "sham" and an act of "political retribution", perpetuated by his political opponents. He added, "I have done nothing wrong, I have violated no law, no regulation, no rule of the House." [34] He retained former U.S. Representative Edwin Bethune of Arkansas, a Washington, D.C., lawyer and lobbyist, who had earlier represented Gingrich during his ethics cases. DeLay and his attorney, Dick DeGuerin, claimed Earle has a history of indicting political enemies. Due to Republican party rules regarding leadership and indictments, DeLay stepped down from his position as House Majority Leader. Serving his last day on June 9, 2006, he stepped down, "to pursue new opportunities to engage in the important cultural and political battles of our day from an arena outside of the U.S. House of Representatives." [35]

White House spokesman Scott McClellan commented by saying that President Bush still viewed DeLay as "a good ally, a leader who we have worked closely with to get things done for the American people." On January 7, 2006, DeLay announced he would not seek to return to his position as Majority Leader. His lawyers asserted there were various legal insufficiencies regarding the indictments. On October 3, 2005, DeLay's lawyers filed a motion to get the indictment of conspiracy to violate election law thrown out as fraudulent, claiming it was a violation of the U.S. Constitution's ban on ex-post facto applications of law. DeLay's lawyers claimed that, in 2002, the crime of conspiracy did not apply to Texas election law, and maintained the corporate donations came from normal and legal business activity.[ citation needed ]

Verdict and appeals

On November 24, 2010, DeLay was found guilty by a Travis County jury on both counts. [5] The range of possible sentences was probation to between 5 and 99 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines. [36] On January 10, 2011, after a sentencing hearing, Judge Priest sentenced DeLay to three years in prison on the charge of conspiring to launder corporate money into political donations. On the charge of money laundering, DeLay was sentenced to five years in prison, which was probated for 10 years, meaning DeLay would have had to serve 10 years' probation. Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's defense attorney, appealed his conviction to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which heard oral arguments on October 10, 2012. [37]

On September 19, 2013, two Republican judges on a Texas appeals court overturned Delay's convictions, 2-1, ruling the evidence was legally insufficient to sustain his convictions. The Travis County District Attorney's office issued a statement that it would appeal the decision before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, [38] which it did. The all-Republican Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to review the case and ruled, 8-1, to affirm the lower courts' dismissal on October 1, 2014. [39] [40] [41]


  1. Stutz, Terrence. "Earlier Jury Declined To Indict Delay". The Sun Sentinel. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
  2. "Smiling DeLay turns himself in for booking", CNN, October 21, 2005.
  3. Jonathan Weisman and Chris Cillizza, "DeLay to Resign From Congress", Washington Post, April 4, 2006.
  4. "San Antonio judge assigned to hear DeLay case" Archived October 3, 2012, at the Wayback Machine , CNN, November 4, 2005.
  5. 1 2 Ratcliffe, R.G.; Fikac, Peggy (November 25, 2010). "DeLay convicted of money laundering charges". Chronicle. Houston. Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  6. Wiggins, Mark, "Lehmberg vows appeal after DeLay conviction overturned" Archived September 20, 2013, at the Wayback Machine ,, September 19, 2013; retrieved September 23, 2013.
  7. DeLay v. Texas, No. 03-11-00087-CR, Tex. Ct. App. (Austin), September 19, 2013; retrieved August 21, 2014.
  8. Not so fast, Tom Delay, , Brad Friedman, September 23, 2013. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  9. Copelin, Laylan (February 18, 2004). "Craddick was used as courier as GOP group tried to score points". Texans for Public Justice. Retrieved June 30, 2007.
  10. "Homeland Security Dept. Searches for Texas Democrats" Archived February 14, 2006, at the Wayback Machine ,; accessed August 21, 2014.
  11. Working Class News; accessed August 21, 2014.
  12. Austin, Christy (December 10, 2004). "Deal calls for funding program on companies' role in democracy". Texans for Public Justice. Retrieved June 30, 2007.
  13. DeLay Memo; accessed August 21, 2014.
  14. "FEC finds misreporting by DeLay committee". The Associated Press. August 11, 2005. Retrieved April 17, 2006.
  15. Charles Babington, "Earle Has Prosecuted Many Democrats", Washington Post, September 29, 2005.
  16. Tex. Penal Code sec. 34.02.
  17. "DeLay lawyers want charges thrown out". The Associated Press. October 7, 2005. Retrieved April 17, 2006.
  18. Janice Porter. Capias Archived August 30, 2008, at the Wayback Machine issued October 19, 2005.
  19. "Smiling DeLay photo no help to Democrats". The Associated Press. October 21, 2005. Retrieved August 7, 2006.
  20. "DeLay faces Texas judge". CNN. October 21, 2005. Retrieved April 17, 2006.
  21. DeLay seeks new judge in money-laundering case Archived October 24, 2005, at the Wayback Machine ,; accessed July 27, 2016.
  22. DeLay indictment details Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine ,; accessed January 26, 2016.
  23. "Third DeLay judge appointed, but confusion remains". USA Today . November 4, 2005. Retrieved April 17, 2006.
  24. Austin, Liz (November 22, 2005). "Judge declines to rule on dismissing charges against DeLay". The Associated Press. Retrieved April 17, 2006.
  25. "DeLay Conspiracy Charges Tossed, Money Laundering Case Remains". The Associated Press. December 6, 2005. Retrieved April 17, 2006.
  26. Shawl, Jeannie (April 19, 2006). "Texas appeals court upholds dismissal of DeLay criminal conspiracy charge". JURIST. Retrieved June 28, 2008.
  27. Texas Judiciary Online - HTML Opinion Archived July 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine ,; accessed October 1, 2014.
  28. "Delay [ sic ] Is Indicted in Texas Case and Forfeits G.O.P. House Post". The New York Times. September 28, 2005. p. 1.
  29. Christy Hoppe (October 1, 2005). "Grand jury foreman cites "stacks" of evidence against DeLay". The Dallas Morning News . Retrieved April 18, 2006.
  30. The Big Buy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress,; accessed August 21, 2014.
  31. Halbfinger, David (March 7, 2006). "Opponents of DeLay Make Use of a Film". The New York Times.
  32. York, Byron (October 4, 2005). "The DeLay Case: Lawyers Intend to Subpoena Makers of The Big Buy". The National Review. Retrieved April 18, 2006.
  33. York, Byron (September 30, 2005). "The Movie: Ronnie Earle, on a Mission from God". The National Review. Retrieved April 18, 2006.
  34. "DeLay indicted, steps down as majority leader". CNN. September 29, 2005. Retrieved August 30, 2006.
  35. DeLay to leave office on June 9, Associated Press (May 12, 2006).
  36. James McKinley, Jr., "DeLay Is Convicted in Texas Donation Case", New York Times, November 24, 2010.
  37. Laylan Copelin, "DeLay sentenced to 3 years in prison" Archived April 24, 2014, at the Wayback Machine , Austin American-Statesman, January 10, 2011.
  38. Camia, Catalina; Davis, Susan (September 19, 2013). "Texas court overturns Tom DeLay conviction". USA Today. Retrieved September 19, 2013.
  39. DeLay, Appellant v. Texas, Appellee (Opinion), No. 03-11-00087-CR, Tex. Ct. App. (Austin, TX), September 19, 2013; accessed October 2, 2014.
  40. DeLay, Appellant v. Texas, Appellee (Dissenting Opinion), No. 03-11-00087-CR, Tex. Ct. App. (Austin, TX), September 19, 2013; accessed October 2, 2014.
  41. Not so fast, Tom Delay, , Brad Friedman, September 23, 2013. Retrieved May 31, 2019.

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