It being Thanksgiving and all, it’s hard to resist a quick ‘thumbs up’ response to the verdict convicting Tom DeLay for money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering in 2002, ostensibly in order to funnel corporate contributions to Texas GOP legislative candidates.
As Robert Barnes and R. Jeffrey Smith explain it in their WaPo report, prosecutors argued that,
…a political action committee that DeLay started in Texas solicited $190,000 from corporate interests and sent it to an arm of the Republican National Committee. They said that group then distributed the money to seven legislative candidates in an effort to skirt Texas law, which forbids corporate contributions to political campaigns.
Prosecutors said that the money helped the GOP win control of the Texas House and that the majority then pushed through a DeLay-organized congressional redistricting plan that sent more Republicans to Congress.
…Punishment for the first ranges from five years to life in prison, but the former congressman from the Houston suburb of Sugar Land could receive probation…The conviction follows years of investigation of DeLay, 63, who came to symbolize the intersection of money and politics in Washington. He made a mission of solidifying the Republican majority in Congress, and his ability to raise campaign cash was part of his power and eventual downfall.
For a time, DeLay was the Republicans’ chief vote counter and patronage dispenser, and he earned his nickname, “The Hammer,” for the dictatorial style with which he commanded House Republicans – and tormented President Bill Clinton and Democrats.
DeLay may win his appeal or walk after a wrist-slapping. Mine is not to gloat here, as do some, tempting though it is, given DeLay’s snarling arrogance and oft-stated contempt for all things Democratic. But it’s not about DeLay. He’s been over for a while.
This verdict is worth a thumbs up for a practical reason — it will discourage saner Republicans from skirting campaign finance laws willy-nilly, at least for a while. In the post ‘Citizens United’ era, that could be significant, coming after the GOP’s midterm takeovers of state legislatures and governorships and consequent redistricting leverage.
So spare a holiday toast for the good jurors of Travis County, Texas, who refused to be hustled by DeLay’s pricey lawyers. Justice lives in the Lone Star state, and somewhere, Molly Ivins is smiling proudly.