AUSTIN, Texas— Prosecutors yesterday tried to imply to jurors that former US House majority leader Tom DeLay was the driving force behind a political action committee authorities say was involved in illegally funneling $190,000 in corporate donations into Texas legislative races eight years ago.
DeLay’s lawyers countered at his trial on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering that he had little involvement in the PAC’s daily operations.
DeLay has denied any wrongdoing. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison.
Prosecutors allege DeLay and two associates — Jim Ellis and John Colyandro — illegally channeled the corporate money, which had been collected by DeLay’s PAC, through the Washington-based Republican National Committee. Under Texas law, corporate money cannot be directly used for political campaigns.
The money helped Republicans in 2002 take control of the Texas House. That majority allowed Republicans to push through a congressional redistricting plan engineered by DeLay that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004 and strengthened DeLay’s political stature, prosecutors said.
However, DeLay’s lawyers say Texas candidates got no corporate money.
Three prosecution witnesses, George Ceverha, ex-treasurer of DeLay’s Texas-based PAC; Kevin Brannon, who kept track of legislative races for the PAC; and Danielle DeLay Garcia, the ex-House majority leader’s daughter, testified yesterday about what the PAC did.
Ceverha said the corporate funds gathered by the PAC were to pay for the PAC’s administrative costs and not for candidates.
Ceverha and Brannon both said they rarely had contact with DeLay and that the PAC was being run by Colyandro, its executive director.
DeLay’s lawyers say the charges are politically motivated by a former district attorney, a Democrat.