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November 25, 2010 2:00 am
Tom DeLay, the Republican leader known as “The Hammer” for his uncompromising enforcement of party discipline, was convicted of money laundering in a Texas court on Wednesday and faces a prison sentence.
Mr DeLay was accused of conspiring to channel $190,000 in campaign donations to Republican candidates to the Texas legislature in 2002, breaking state law in the process. After the verdict, which he called “a miscarriage of justice”, he said: “We will carry on. Hopefully we can get this before people who understand the law.”
The former House majority leader had been battling corruption allegations since 2006 when he resigned in disgrace from Congress after being indicted on campaign finance charges.
The Department of Justice had earlier this year decided not to pursue a separate case against Mr DeLay linked to the charges of influence peddling against Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist.
Mr DeLay, 63, faces up to life in prison for the money laundering conviction. Sentencing is due just before Christmas. Dick DeGuerin, his attorney, told the Financial Times that he would appeal and overturn the “emotional verdict” from the jury. “The laws covering money laundering, which is the crime, are draconian and carry a possible life sentence. I don’t see that as a real possibility at all.”
As part of the Republican leadership after the party’s 1994 sweep of Congress he amassed immense political power but his indictment helped the Democrats as they returned to power on an anti-corruption ticket in 2006.
“The public officials people elect to represent them must do so honestly and ethically and if not, they will be held accountable,” said Rosemary Lehmberg, district attorney for Travis County in Texas.
Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center, a campaign finance advocacy group, said: “Our campaign finance laws are important to our system of self-government, and laundering money in an attempt to evade those laws undermines our democratic process. In moving money around in order to use illegal corporate funds to elect candidates in Texas, Tom DeLay displayed a startling contempt for our laws and our democratic process.”
Mr DeGuerin expressed “tremendous disappointment” at the verdict, which he said “will not stand up on appeal”. “The prosecution just built resentment against Tom DeLay for his power and the prestige that he had . . . and all the money that’s spent in politics,” he said.
“Instead of arguing the present law or the facts of the case they argued that 200 years ago Thomas Jefferson had said that corporations could destroy America. The Supreme Court happens to disagree.”
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