Group: 3 judges in DeLay case tainted by PAC
SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS NEWS
AUSTIN — Three Republican appellate justices who have opened the door to the possible dismissal of criminal charges against Tom DeLay share political donors with a committee formed by the former U.S. House GOP leader, a government watchdog group said Tuesday.
The justices collectively took 10 percent of the money for their most recent campaigns from donors who financed DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), according to a report by Texans for Public Justice.
TRMPAC helped Republicans capture a majority of Texas House seats in 2002.
DeLay and two associates — political consultants John Colyandro and Jim Ellis — are accused of illegally funneling $190,000 in corporate donations to seven Texas House candidates that year. Prosecutors allege they conspired to violate the state's ban on corporate contributions by laundering money through national Republican Party accounts.
Last month, Chief Justice Ken Law and Justices Alan Waldrop and Bob Pemberton — a panel of the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin — refused to dismiss money-laundering and conspiracy charges against Colyandro and Ellis, upholding the ban on corporate donations. But, in their ruling, they said the money-laundering statute on the books in 2002 applied to cash, not checks.
DeLay wasn't part of the appeal, but he faces the same charges. And his attorney, Dick DeGuerin, believes the ruling will force prosecutors to eventually dismiss the charges because the indictment alleges the transactions were conducted with checks. The Legislature didn't add checks to the definition of “funds” in the money-laundering law until 2005.
Law, who is seeking re-election against a Democratic challenger this fall, reported raising $106,122 through June. Some 26 percent of that came from individuals and groups who also contributed to TRMPAC, Texans for Public Justice said.
The group said Waldrop received 14 percent of his contributions from TRMPAC donors during his 2006 campaign, and Pemberton received 6 percent of the financial support for his 2004 and 2006 races from contributors to the DeLay committee.
Altogether, TPJ reported, the three justices received $119,825 from 20 TRMPAC donors, including the Locke Liddell & Sapp law firm, Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, Dallas businessman Harold Simmons, Dallas investor Peter O'Donnell, the Farmers Insurance PAC, the AT&T PAC and San Antonio businessman James Leininger.
Calls to the three justices weren't returned.
Waldrop, who wrote the opinion, was a paid lobbyist for Texans for Lawsuit Reform in 2002, when that group worked closely with TRMPAC on House races.
“The dark shadow of corruption of our system of justice looms over this case,” wrote Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, asking the entire six-member court to reconsider the opinion.
“It is in the public's interest to hear from all the justices,” he added.
Justice Diane Henson, a Democrat on the court, recently lost a similar attempt. Earle also could appeal the decision to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.