Tom DeLay Acquitted of Money Laundering

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Looks like “Hot Tub Tom” is off the hook—at least for now.

Tom DeLay, a former U.S. House Republican from Sugarland, was found guilty by jury of conspiring to commit money laundering during the 2002 election cycle and sentenced to three years in prison in November 2010. On bail, Delay was waiting to appeal his conviction. In today’s 2-1 party-line ruling by the Third Court of Appeals, the court decided, “evidence was legally insufficient” to convict the disgraced representative.

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Tom DeLay, also found guilty of questionable dance moves during his time on Dancing With The Stars. Photo: Screen Shot via YouTube.

The former House Majority leader funneled $190,000 in corporate donations through Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC)—a group barred from donating to state candidates by Texas law—to the Republican National State Elections Committee, who doled out the checks to seven Texas candidates. The money “swap” landed DeLay in hot water from the state for violating election code. Now, an appellate court says otherwise. Corporations merely donated to TRMPAC for “face-time” and relationship-building with DeLay and didn’t necessarily intend for those funds to go toward candidates or unlawful purposes, cleansing what’s referred to in campaign finance as “dirty” money into legal, clean funds.

In the one dissenting opinion by lone Democrat Chief Justice J. Woodfin (Woodie) Jones, that logic doesn’t stand. Jones argues the corporations had a “no strings attached policy” and, “failed to designate or limit TRMPAC’s use of the contributions,” meaning they set no boundaries to where the money could go. In fact, as Jones points out, TRMPAC made its intentions pretty clear: from a TRMPAC brochure, “Your support today will go directly to help Republican candidates in Texas successfully run and win their campaigns.” He states, “A rational juror hearing the evidence presented in this trial could have found that the relevant corporate contributions to TRMPAC were made with the intent that they be used to support individual candidates or be put to other purposes not authorized by subchapter D [of the Texas Election Code].”

But this may not be the end of the DeLay saga—Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg has vowed to request the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals review the ruling. The DA’s office is preparing a full response, in the meantime they write:

“We strongly disagree with the opinion of Judges Goodwin and Gaultney that the evidence was insufficient.  We are concerned and disappointed that two judges substituted their assessment of the facts for that of 12 jurors who personally heard the testimony of over 40 witnesses over the course of several weeks and found that the evidence was sufficient and proved DeLay’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

Former Travis County DA Ronnie Earle led the charge to indict and investigate DeLay.

You can read the opinion here. And the dissent here.

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