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 yesterday in opening statements of the former US 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 of which the once powerful but polarizing lawmaker is guilty 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.
Mathews told jurors the $190,000 that was collected by DeLay’s Texas political action committee was exchanged for the same amount through the Republican National Committee and ultimately given to seven Texas candidates.
She said the money swap was supervised and facilitated by DeLay.
During his opening statement, DeLay’s lead attorney repeatedly told jurors that no corporate money was given to Texas candidates.