The Travis County jurors deciding the fate of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay told the trial judge on Tuesday that they were making progress but would need more time to arrive at a verdict.
Jurors will return Wednesday to continue deliberating on DeLay’s fate. He faces charges of money laundering and conspiracy to launder money, which stem from his role in helping to orchestrate the controversial 2003 redistricting of Texas’ congressional districts.
“It’s going to be a long deliberation because of the complexity of the case,” said Gary Cobb, Travis County’s lead prosecutor on the case. “We’re not concerned about the time it’s taking them to come to a decision. We are heartened by the fact they say they are making progress.”
DeLay’s defense attorney, Dick DeGuerin, promised to appeal any conviction on grounds that Texas’ ban on corporate campaign contributions is an unconstitutional violation of a corporation’s right to free speech.
“We know [the jurors] are working hard because they’re writing intelligent questions,” he said. “It means they’re looking very hard at the evidence. I think they’re zeroing in right on the weaknesses of the prosecution’s case.”
The indictment was based on questions about the propriety of money used to help finance Republican candidates for the Texas House in the 2002 election.
DeLay’s Texas political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, sent $190,000 in corporate campaign contributions to an arm of the Republican National Committee in October 2002, along with a list of seven candidates to donate money to and how much money to send to each campaign.
Just a few days later, the RNC sent a total of $190,000 from a separate bank account — money that could be contributed to campaigns in Texas — to the seven listed candidates.
The Travis County District Attorney charged that the money swap was money laundering and indicted DeLay. His defense claimed it was standard practice in politics.
“I don’t think there’s enough money in politics,” DeLay said during an earlier pre-trial hearing. “Money is corruptible to the corruptible; it is up to the individual. There is nothing wrong with participating in the process and [raising money to help] candidates get elected. I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done.”
During the closing days of the trial, the prosecution repeatedly argued, while the defense strenuously objected, that DeLay’s motive to conspire and launder money to GOP candidates for the Texas House was to push through what would become the controversial 2003 redistricting of the state.
Retaking the Texas House was essential to DeLay’s plans to redraw Texas’ congressional districts, with the aim of cementing GOP control of the U.S. House of Representatives, said Dave McNeely, a retired longtime political columnist for the Austin American-Statesman.
“TRMPAC was allegedly founded as a means of shuttling corporate money to help Republicans in targeted races in the Texas House of Representatives,” McNeely said. “It was obviously aimed at electing [state] Rep. Tom Craddick, [R-Midland], as speaker of the Texas House, and then having him oversee the drawing of new congressional districts that would punish senior Democrats and help DeLay pad the Republican majority. It worked.”
McNeely said the extra seats were needed to ensure there were enough votes for Craddick to defeat then-Speaker Pete Laney, a Democrat who had some Republican support.
Encouraged by DeLay and Gov. Rick Perry, Craddick spearheaded the controversial 2003 midcycle redrawing of Texas’ congressional districts, which resulted in Texas sending an additional six Republicans to the U.S. House.