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Lone Star Project Report

Politics Aside, Tom DeLay Was Convicted of a Crime

Texas Republicans calling for a Perry Pardon of DeLay are wrong on all counts

The Austin American-Statesman reported yesterday that "the State Republican Executive Committee will consider a resolution this weekend calling on Gov. Rick Perry to immediately pardon former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay." This idea is not just impossible, it is wholly irresponsible and a reflection of Texas Republican tolerance for overt corruption.

First, R.G. Ratcliffe of the Houston Chronicle pointed out that Perry does not have the power to pardon DeLay. He can only make a recommendation to the Pardon Board and he can't do that until the appeals process has run its course. (Houston Chronicle, December 2, 2010)

More importantly, the Republican Party and Perry should remember that a jury of his peers convicted DeLay of a felony. While the GOP and politicians like Perry claim to be for "law and order," clearly that doesn't extend to their own leaders like Tom DeLay and former Dick Cheney Chief of Staff and convicted felon Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Even if it were possible to pardon DeLay, it would be absolutely inappropriate to do so.

The Travis County prosecution team deserves credit for sticking to the facts and keeping it simple. The jury deserves even more credit for understanding the basic nature of the crime DeLay committed and correctly interpreting his illegal acts and intent.

The facts are straight-forward:

  • It is illegal in Texas for corporate funds to be contributed to or used to support State or local candidates. (Texas Election Law § 253.094)
  • In the closing weeks of the 2002 campaign, Tom DeLay’s political organization (TRMPAC) did not have sufficient legally qualified money to contribute to Republican legislative candidates. DeLay’s political organization did, however, have large amounts of corporate funds that could not be legally used to support legislative candidates. (Houston Chronicle, November 2, 2010) DeLay had a blank check sent to the Republican National Committee. This check was later filled out and signed by DeLay’s top political aid, Jim Ellis, for $190,000 in corporate money. (Associated Press, November 23, 2010)
  • Tom DeLay personally met with Jim Ellis on the day the check arrived from Austin. (The Houston Chronicle, November 25, 2010)
  • The Republican National Committee wrote checks made out to Texas Republican State House candidates totaling exactly $190,000. (Houston Chronicle, November 25, 2010)

Tom DeLay made and has a lot of political enemies – most of them Democrats but some of them Republicans. There is no question that DeLay’s political enemies feel some satisfaction from his felony conviction. Setting all rhetoric and partisan political considerations aside, however, the facts are the facts. DeLay exchanged illegal corporate money for Republican National Committee money in order to benefit Texas State candidates. In Texas, DeLay’s actions constitute felony offenses.