Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Judge Upholds Felony Charges Against DeLay; DeLay Scrambles to Retain Power

Two Charges Upheld, One Dismissed
As R.G. Ratcliffe reports in the Houston Chronicle, on Monday, Texas District Court Judge Pat Priest upheld two felony charges - money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering - against Rep. Tom DeLay, while dismissing a separate charge of conspiracy to violate state election law.

Priest's reasoning on the dismissed charge was that because the Texas state legislature amended the Texas Election Code in 2003 to specifically include conspiracy to violate election law, that the blanket conspiracy law which existed prior to 2003 did not cover the state's election laws. Because DeLay's alleged criminal activity - conspiring to give corporate money to candidates for the Texas state legislature - occurred in 2002, DeLay was in the clear.

There is some irony in this. DeLay was accused (the Travis County DA might appeal Judge Priest's ruling, so DeLay isn't entirely in the clear here) of using illegal money to get his preferred candidates elected in the 2002 races. Once in office, those candidates helped pass a law which eventually cleared DeLay of his possibly illegal actions in getting them elected. Brilliant.

DeLay Seeks to Separate Charges for Faster Trial
Today, as April Castro reports for the Associated Press in the Houston Chronicle, lawyers for Rep. Tom DeLay asked a Texas judge to separate the two charges remaining against DeLay. DeLay hopes that separated charges will lead to a speedy (January) trial and victory on the money laundering charge, rendering the conspiracy charge moot.

A quick resolution of the criminal proceedings against him is increasingly important to DeLay's efforts to regain his position as House Majority Leader, from which he was forced to step aside when he was indicted in August. At the time, Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt was appointed as a sort of caretaker for the position until DeLay got back.

But, as Jonathan Weisman reports in the Washington Post, as DeLay's criminal troubles drag on and 2006 elections grow nearer, members of his caucus are now publicly clamoring for elections of a new Majority Leader. Such elections would make it much less likely that DeLay would regain his position.

DeLay rose to power largely because he was able to raise massive amounts of money into his PAC from largely corporate interests, which he then doled out to candidates. It is fitting that that power is now in jeopardy because of the very tactics - tactics that gave wealthy interests a big advantage in representation over the rest of us - that got him the power in the first place.

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