Friday, September 09, 2005

Texas Group That DeLay Advised Is Indicted

From the LA Times:

Committee took illegal corporate contributions to help GOP candidates, prosecutors allege.
A major employer group in Texas is also charged.

By Richard B. SchmittTimes Staff WriterSeptember 9, 2005

WASHINGTON — A Texas grand jury Thursday indicted a political action committee linked to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), alleging that it accepted illegal campaign contributions during the 2002 election that led to a historic realignment of the Texas Legislature. The charges, which include indictments against one of the state's oldest and largest employer groups, arise out of an investigation by local prosecutors, begun more than two years ago, into the use of corporate money to bankroll Republican candidates for state office. The indictments allege violations of a state law that bans corporate contributions to state legislative candidates.DeLay, one of the most powerful figures in Congress, was not named in the indictment. Three individuals associated with the political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, were indicted last year. In a statement, the House leader said the allegations were "limited to a political organization" and acknowledged he had voluntarily spoken with investigators last month at the Travis County district attorney's office, which is overseeing the probe. "Mr. DeLay explained to officials what he has always said publicly: His role … was limited to serving on the political action committee's advisory board along with other elected Texas officials and to appearing at fundraising events," DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden said. "Mr. DeLay assured the district attorney's office that he was not involved in the day-to-day operations … and to his knowledge all activities were properly reviewed and approved by lawyers" for the political action committee. The indictments unsealed Thursday alleged that the Texas Assn. of Business, which represents employers in the state, and Texans for a Republican Majority worked together in a complicated scheme to circumvent the state's election code. Travis County Dist. Atty. Ronald Earle contended that "massive amounts of secret corporate wealth" had been illegally funneled into the coffers of Republican candidates during the 2002 campaign. The business group was charged with fraudulently soliciting money from corporations, and making illegal contributions, in violation of state election law. The political action committee was charged with illegally soliciting and accepting corporate contributions, including $20,000 from AT&T Corp. and $100,000 from the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care.A lawyer for the Texas Assn. of Business, Roy Minton, said the state was attempting to criminalize activity protected by federal law. According to the indictments, the group paid more than $1.1 million in corporate money for mailings to voters and television advertising. "The indictments leave out all the federal law that there is as to the constitutional right of any business to inform the public concerning the voting record or any conduct on the part of candidates for office," Minton said. "That is not something that can be regulated by the state through its election code." Some advocates of campaign finance overhaul have suggested that the investigation and indictments essentially illustrate a conspiracy to bolster the Republican majority in Congress. After the GOP took control of the Texas Legislature in 2002, lawmakers the next year drew, at DeLay's behest, new congressional district maps that were credited with helping Republicans gain seats in Texas' congressional delegation in 2004. Republicans have denounced the politically charged investigation as partisan. Earle, the district attorney in Travis County, which includes the state capital, is a Democrat.


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